(WASHINGTON) — A wave of anti-American protests broke out in more than a dozen countries Friday with some of the worst violence occurring in Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan.
Three people were killed — two in Tunisia and one in Egypt — as protesters battled with police who used tear gas and rubber bullets and sometimes fired into the air in an attempt to keep the demonstrators away from American embassies.
The protests, now in their fourth day, spread to other countries including Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh as well as other countries. Some of the protests drew thousands while others only a few hundred, all of them angry over the movie “The Innocence of Muslims,” an amateurish video that mocks the Prophet Mohammed.
In the Tunisian capital of Tunis, thousands of protesters swarmed around the U.S. embassy and several dozen managed to scale an outer wall and set fire to cars parked there. A flag on which was written the Muslim profession of faith was raised until security forces took it down. Black smoke from the fires wafted over the city as protesters and security forces continued a tense stand-off.
In Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi went on state television to denounce the killing of four Americans in Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood retracted their call for a Million Man March. In addition clerics during Friday prayers urged the faithful to remain peaceful.
Nevertheless, thousands poured into the streets around the U.S. embassy which has been reinforced with a concrete wall since protesters got inside an outer perimeter earlier this week to take down and destroy the American flag.
In Sanaa, Yemen, police fired shots into the air and lobbed a barrage of tear gas at a crowd of protesters who were trying to march to the U.S. embassy. In face of the tough police response, the crowd of protesters dwindled to several hundred people.
A squad of about 50 marines arrived in Sanaa Friday. Pentagon press secretary George Little said the elite team was sent in response to the violence, but also as a precautionary measure.
There was little sign of government security in Sudan where crowds attacked the U.S., British and German embassies.
The demonstrators are blaming the U.S. government for the video about the prophet and want an apology from President Obama.
The State Department has been monitoring developments around its embassies around the clock and on Thursday a U.S. intelligence bulletin warned that the violent outrage could be spread to America by extremist groups eager to “exploit anger.”
Libyan officials said several people have been arrested for the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the assault.
CIA Director David Petreaus told the House Intelligence Committee Friday that they believe a spontaneous protest broke out and that a militant group that possibly had ties to al Qaeda took the opportunity to launch an assault with rifles and RPGs.
The embassy protests have also inflamed U.S. presidential politics.
Mitt Romney and other Republicans said that Obama contributed to the unrest by giving “confused” messages in his foreign policy decisions.
In an interview Thursday with the Washington Post, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy adviser Richard Williamson suggested that if Romney were the president, he would have averted the deadly attacks.
“There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation,” Williamson told the Post. “For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we’ve had an American ambassador assassinated.”
Obama, speaking a campaign event in Golden, Colo., Thursday, vowed that the perpetrators who killed Stevens and the other Americans in Libya would be punished.
“I want people around the world to hear me,” he said. “To all those who would do us harm: No act of terror will go unpunished. I will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Arwa Damon, Waffa Munayyer and Bryony Jones, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Ben Westcott, CNN
Alison Daye, CNN