US embassy staff leave Tunisia and Sudan
Published Sunday, September 16, 2012
Washington ordered all non-essential staff to leave Tunisia and Sudan after its embassies were stormed by Muslims protesting an anti-Islam movie and as Al-Qaeda called for more attacks on US targets.
US officials have already deployed counter-terrorism Marine units to Libya and Yemen and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.
But Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, on Saturday flatly rejected a US request to send special forces to protect the Khartoum embassy, the official SUNA news agency said, quoting his office.
Hours later, US officials announced Washington would evacuate all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.
In cities across the Muslim world protesters have vented their fury at the "Innocence of Muslims" -- an amateur film produced in the United States -- by targeting symbols of US influence ranging from embassies and schools to fast food chains.
Protests erupted again on Sunday, with hundreds of students pouring into the streets of Kabul shouting anti-US slogans, while the Bangladesh government condemned the film as "reprehensible."
With Muslim anger boiling, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Saturday issued a call for more violence against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and urged attacks on US interests in the West, the SITE Intelligence Group said.
The mainstream media had originally reported that the film triggered a lethal attack on the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans late Tuesday when suspected Islamic militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the US consulate in Benghazi. However, evidence has since come to light showing that jihadists had been planning the attack at least 48 hours before the film's publishing.
AQAP, Al-Qaeda's Yemeni offshoot, did not claim direct responsibility for the attack in the eastern Libyan city.
But it said the killing of Al-Qaeda deputy leader Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi in a June drone strike in Pakistan "increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of (Libyan independence hero) Omar al-Mukhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet," according to SITE.
"May the expulsion of embassies and consulates lead to the liberation of Arab lands from the American hegemony and arrogance," it said in another statement.
In Afghanistan, heavily armed Taliban fighters on Friday stormed a strongly fortified air base in Helmand province where Britain's Prince Harry is deployed, killing two US Marines in an assault the militia said was to avenge the anti-Islam film.
A NATO spokesman on Sunday revealed that six US fighter jets and three refueling stations were destroyed and six aircraft hangars damaged in the attack.