Editor’s Note: Read a version of this story in Arabic.
Four killed in protests, Yemen security officials say
White House: All U.S. Embassy personnel are safe and accounted for
24 security force members were injured in the clashes, Yemen's Defense Ministry says
The angry protests are fueled by an online film that insults the Prophet Mohammed
Anger over a film that denigrates the Prophet Mohammed spread to Yemen, where four protesters died Thursday during clashes with security forces outside the U.S. Embassy, according to Yemeni security officials.
Twenty-four security force members were reported injured, as were 11 protesters, according to Yemen’s Defense Ministry, security officials and eyewitnesses.
Protesters and witnesses said one protester was critically injured when police fired on them as they tried to disperse the angry crowd.
The protests in Sanaa are the latest to roil the Middle East over the online release of the film produced in the United States.
As evening came, the number of protesters dwindled and tensions began to ease, after a day in which demonstrators breached a security wall and stormed the embassy amid escalating anti-American sentiment.
No embassy personnel were harmed, U.S. officials said.
In Egypt, riot police fired warning shots and tear gas early Thursday outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to keep hundreds of protesters back from the compound walls, with minor injuries reported. Protesters also gathered in Tunisia, Morocco, Iran and elsewhere.
The clashes follow Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other consular officials dead and has heightened tensions at U.S. diplomatic missions across the region.
Thursday morning, several thousand Yemeni protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, with some flooding the security perimeter and penetrating the embassy’s wall, according to a statement released by Yemen through its embassy in Washington condemning the incident.
“Security services have quickly restored order to the embassy’s complex. Fortunately, no casualties were reported from this chaotic incident,” it said.
However, after a lull following the breach of the embassy wall, anger appeared to rise again as the day wore on, and security forces began to use more force to try to control the crowd.
There were fewer than 100 protesters by lunchtime, and tensions had eased, but their numbers rose to several hundred after water cannons were used against the crowd.
Security forces were given permission to shoot anyone seen with weapons near the embassy, two Interior Ministry officials told CNN, and gunshots were heard in the area.
By evening, the protesters, armed only with sticks and stones picked up from the street, had decreased in number and had been pushed back to about 300 yards from the embassy.