(NEW YORK) — Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen praised the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya as a “great event” on Saturday and urged followers to kill other American diplomats across the Muslim world.
But the violent anti-American protests that rocked the capitals of some 20 nations from northern African to southeast Asia on Friday, causing at least six deaths, largely subsided.
In Egypt, where Islamic fury first erupted over a crude amateur film produced in the United States denigrating the Prophet Muhammad, security forces moved on Saturday to end the demonstrations around the American embassy in Cairo.
They cleared the streets around the U.S. compound and nearby Tahrir Square, using tear gas and arresting scores of protesters who refused to disperse. They also expanded barriers blocking access to the embassy.
The Egyptian interior minister inspected the area for himself and said “our presence here is to clear the square of people who are breaking the law,” adding, “We must preserve the square as a symbol of the revolution. That is the aim of our operation.”
Issuing a stern warning, he said measures would be taken to ensure “those breaking the law” do not return.
Egypt’s new president and his ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood, angered President Obama and the State Department by not moving swiftly to stop the siege of the U.S. embassy on Tuesday and to condemn the violence. Egypt’s new rulers have since acknowledged that they should have done more.
Meanwhile, state news media in Egypt on Saturday gave the first full accounting of casualties caused during the four days of clashes: A man was killed by shotgun fire and more than 224 people were injured, including at least 99 Egyptian security officers.
One of the few reports of violence on Saturday came from Australia, where 200 protesters clashed with riot police outside the U.S. consulate in Sydney. Demonstrators chanted “Obama, Obama, we love Osama” and waved signs declaring, “Behead all those who insult the Prophet.”
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the terror group’s Yemen branch is known, sought to ride the wave of anger in the Arab street with its web posting on Saturday that urged Muslims to step up their demonstrations and violence.
The group said the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Tuesday by a mob that stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and set it on fire was the “best example” for Muslims in other nations to follow.
“What has happened is a great event, and these efforts should come together in one goal, which is to expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims,” the web statement said.
The group urged protesters in Muslim nations “to set the fires blazing at these embassies.”
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula consists mostly of militants from Yemen and Saudi Arabia and is regarded by the United States as the most dangerous arm of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
Muslims have blamed the U.S. government for the film — even though Washington has condemned the movie and explicitly denounced insults to any religion.
Obama focused on the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in the Benghazi attack in his weekly address on Saturday.
“We must … send a clear and resolute message to the world: those who attack our people will find no escape from justice. We will not waver in their pursuit. And we will never allow anyone to shake the resolve of the United States of America,” Obama said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, Zayn Nabbi, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN