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Live Blog: Middle East Protests

Following Tuesday's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Tripoli that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, a wave of anti-American demonstrations -- all apparently touched off by the same U.S.-made film that insults the Prophet Muhammad -- has spread across much of the Muslim world. So far, protesters have stormed the U.S. embassies in Cairo, Khartoum, Sanaa, and Tunis. The following is an up-to-the minute account of the demonstrations as they spread (see images of the protests here):

Tunisia:

Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy walls in Tunis, breaking windows and setting at least one building on fire. Protests are ongoing and smoke continues to billow from the embassy compound [11:54 am].  An American school is also reportedly on fire.

Al Jazeera reports that more military vehicles are moving into position in Tunis to bring the demonstrations under control [12:55 pm]

Tunisian state television increased the death toll to three and reported that 28 have been injured as clashes continue [1:41 pm]. 

Riot police have finally driven demonstrators from the U.S. Embassy compound, Reuters reports. Authorities arrested roughly 60 rioters and cordoned off the compound. Clashes are still ongoing, however, in the el-Aouina district across a highway from neighborhood where the embassy is located [4:23 pm].

Egypt:

In Cairo, where protesters overran the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday and tore down the American flag, planned nation-wide protests were cancelled by the Muslim Brotherhood, but demonstrations continue in Tahrir Square and the surrounding area. The AP reports [10:49 am] that security forces fired tear gas at protesters attempting to approach the U.S. Embassy once again. Protests are ongoing [12:04 pm].

Al Jazeera reports that there are two main groups demonsting in Cairo, one protesting peacefully in Tahrir Square and another, more agitated group, sparring with security forces closer to the U.S. Embassy [12: 42 pm]

The Egyptian prime minister and interior minister visited Tahrir Square to express their dismay over the ongoing protests, Al Jazeera reports [1:08 pm].

Ahram Online reports [1:29 pm] that Bedouins, angered by the film, stormed the Multinational Force and Observers' (MFO) compound in the Sinai.

Police arrested at least 90 demonstrators in Cairo today, according to Al Jazeera [2:11 pm].

The demonstrations in Tahrir Square appeared to have quieted somewhat, although crowds continue to mill about and small fires are still burning [3:11 pm]

The AP reports that one protester died from injuries sustained in clashes with security forces today [3:22 pm].  

Sudan:

Protesters stormed the German Embassy in Khartoum and set it ablaze [8:32 am] and the British Foreign Office reports that police are confronting protesters outside the British embassy in Khartoum.

Demonstrators stormed the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and hoisted an Islamic flag. According to Al Jazeera [11:56 am] three people have been killed in ongoing clashes.

Nigeria:

Nigerian troops fired live rounds at anti-American demonstrators in Jos, according to Al Jazeera [12:00 pm].

CNN reports [12:23 pm] that around 2,000 demonstrators gathered at a central mosque in Jos. A clash with security forces ensued when the crowd attempted to move toward the city center.

Nigerians also demonstrated and burned American flags in Sokoto, a primarily Muslim city in the country's northwest, the Washington Post reports [1: 09 pm].

Yemen:

The United States deployed a team of Marines to Yemen following the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa yesterday. "Although these security forces are equipped for combat, these movements have been undertaken solely for the purpose of protecting American citizens and property. These security forces will remain in Libya and in Yemen until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed," president Obama wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. (Keeping Congress abrest of military activities is required by the War Powers Resolution.)

The Marines are now on the ground there. Demonstrators who gathered to protest today in Sanaa have since dispersed, according to Al Jazeera [12:07 pm].

The Yemen Post reports that by day's end, four protesters have been killed and 48 others -- including 10 police officers -- were injured in Sanaa.  The rioters destroyed at least 63 cars and damaged several buildings [4: 09 pm]

Lebanon:

The AP reports [11:39 am] that demonstrators clashed with the police in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, leaving one person dead and 25 injured. A KFC and an Arby's restaurant were also burned.

Al Jazeera reports that order has been restored in Tripoli and security forces are in control [12:43 pm]

Israel and the Palestinian Territories:

Thousands rallied on Friday in the Gaza Strip and several hundred demonstrated in the Old City in Jerusalem, where they clashed with Israeli police. In a Friday sermon, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya called for the United States to apologize for the anti-Islamic film."The U.S. administration should apologize to the Arab and Islamic nation for this offensive film and bring these criminals to justice," he said [4:35 pm]

Algeria:

The U.S. Embassy issued a warning to Americans in Algeria yesterday after calls for anti-American protests went out over social media websites.

Iran:

Students demonstrated outside the Swiss Embassy - which represents the United States in Iran - over the U.S.-made film. No violence was reported, according to the Wall Street Journal.  

Afghanistan:

Protests broke out in Afghanistan for the first time Friday in the Nangarhar province with demonstrators "Death to America" and "We condemn the film." The New York Times also reports [12:25 pm] that demonstrators burned president Obama in effigy. 

Libya:

President Obama dispatched a Marine anti-terrorism unit to Tripoli on Wednesday in response to the consular attack in Benghazi. He also moved two warships to the Libyan coast as a precautionary measure.

Libyan authorities said they suspect the Libyan branch of Ansar al-Sharia, a radical Islamist group, of orchestrating Tuesday's attack. They arrested four people in connection with the attack, although those in custody are not suspected of playing a direct role, a top aide to the Libyan prime minister told CNN.

Overnight, U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over Benghazi took heavy fire from militants on the ground. Libyan authorities closed the airspace over Benghazi as a result, Reuters reports.

Bangladesh:

On Thursday, Reuters reported that roughly 1,000 protestors attempted to march on the U.S. Embassy in Daka, but were blocked by security forces. Today, more than 10,000 people turned out to demonstrate, burning American flags and "Smash the black hands of Jews," the Daily Star reports. Police prevented them from approaching the U.S. Embassy.

White House: 

The Washington Post reports [1:06 pm] that the White House asked YouTube to review the anti-Muslim film, which has been blamed for the current protests rolling across much of the Muslim World.  National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the White House "reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use." As of 3:37 pm, however, multiple versions of the film, Innocence of Muslims, could be found on YouTube. 

President Obama, in a speech at Andrew's Air Force base in Maryland, vowed again to bring those responsible for the attack in Benghazi to justice and promised to "do everything in our power to protect americans serving overseas" [3:00pm]

 

AFP/Getty Images

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Romney camp scolds Obama campaign for citing Chinese news agency

Yesterday I noted that the Chinese press had yet to respond to Mitt Romney's accusation on the campaign trail and in a new ad that Beijing is cheating by manipulating its currency. Today Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, picked up the gauntlet in a stinging English-language editorial:  

[I]t is rather ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician's wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics.

Such blaming-China-on-everything remarks are as false as they are foolish, for it has never been a myth that pushing up the value of China's currency would be of little use to boost the chronically slack job market of the world's sole superpower, not to mention to magically turn the poor US economic performance around....

If these mud-slinging tactics were to become US government policies, a trade war would be very likely to break out between the world's top two economies, which would be catastrophic enough to both sides and the already groaning global economy.

For generations, China-bashing has been a cancer in US electoral politics, seriously plaguing the relations between the two countries.

Chinese news outlets have issued searing rebukes of Romney's rhetoric several times before in this election. What's more interesting is the sparring that ensued between Obama and Romney campaign staffers once Xinhua published the editorial.

In tweeting a Reuters article on the op-ed this morning, Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, wrote, "Must read: China's Xinhua slams Romney for making his money off Chinese companies before running for pres." That prompted a swift response on Twitter from Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "Team Obama promoting 'news' from Chinese propaganda agency," he wrote.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has since joined the debate, tweeting that it's "offensive that the Obama campaign would use the Chinese propaganda paper Xinhua to promote their campaign" and that the "Obama campaign's actions show they won't stand up to cheaters/protect US jobs."

"What's offensive," Cutter shot back, "is that Mitt thinks voters will believe he'll be tough on China -he's personally profiting of China as we speak."

How long before we see a new ad attacking Obama for outsourcing his PR to China?