(Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayagh)
The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was stormed by angry Muslim protesters on Thursday, who set cars on fire and burned a U.S. flag, a day after the American ambassador to Libya was killed along with three other Americans in another Islamist attack.
The mob in Yemen apparently clashed with security forces after burning a U.S. flag and replacing it with a black Islam banner that read "There is no God but Allah," and pelting the compound with rocks. The mob was pushed back after police used tear gas and fired in the air to scare them away. So far, there have been no reports of casualties.
"Fortunately no casualties were reported from this chaotic incident. The government of Yemen will honor international obligations to ensure the safety of diplomats and will step up security presence around all foreign missions," the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, D.C. said in a statement reported by Fox News. "We strongly urge all those that would wish to incite others to violence to cease immediately."
U.S. forces were on standby to intervene in the situation in Yemen if needed, although they have not been called into action yet. Yesterday, President Barack Obama said that security would be tightened at all U.S. locations around the world following attacks that also hit the U.S. embassy in Egypt, although there were no reports of casualties there.
"We are doing everything we can to support our mission in Yemen," a senior Pentagon administration official said. "We've had good cooperation from the Yemeni government which is working with us to maintain order and protect our facilities and people."
Meanwhile, the Yemen government has claimed that order has been restored at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, while a senior Obama official has confirmed that the Yemen government is "working with us to maintain order and protect our facilities and people."
Much like the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya on Tuesday, the Islamist attackers seem to have been motivated by the same anti-Muslim film called "Innocence of Muslims," made in the U.S. and distributed on YouTube, that apparently mocks Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials said the attack on the embassy in Benghazi might have been planned in advance to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S.
"It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack," said an anonymous U.S. official, as reported by Reuters. A militant organization called Ansar al Sharia, which translates as "Supporters of Islamic Law," is suspected of co-coordinating the attack, along with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, an organization linked with the larger terrorist group that was once led by Osama bin Laden.
The New York Times also suggested that the riots in Yemen began only hours after Abdul Majid al- Zandani, a Muslim cleric and one-time mentor of Osama bin Laden, called upon followers to emulate the protests in Libya and Egypt.
"The U.S. Embassy continues to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid large gatherings. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens in Yemen are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly," the US embassy in Yemen has warned.