Obama urges US to remain calm as protests intensify over anti-Islam video

Indian Muslims burn a representation of an American flag during a protest in Hyderabad, India. The protest was held against an obscure movie called "Innocence of Muslims" that mocked Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Mahesh Kumar, AP)

Indian Muslims burn a representation of an American flag during a protest in Hyderabad, India. The protest was held against an obscure movie called "Innocence of Muslims" that mocked Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Mahesh Kumar, AP)

US President Barack Obama has expressed confidence that the ideals of freedom America stands for will ultimately prevail.

"I know the images on our televisions are disturbing," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "But let us never forget that for every angry mob, there are millions who yearn for the freedom, and dignity, and hope that our flag represents."

The comments came after furious protesters targeted symbols of US influence in cities across the Muslim world, attacking embassies, schools and restaurants in retaliation for a film that mocks Islam.

At least six protesters died in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Sudan on Friday as local police battled to defend American missions from mobs of stone-throwers, and Washington deployed US Marines to protect its embassies in Libya and Yemen.

The protests broke out when Muslims emerged from mosques following weekly prayers to voice their anger at a crude film made in the United States by a right-wing Christian group that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed.

Obama assured that his administration was doing everything it could to protect Americans who were serving abroad.

"We are in contact with governments around the globe, to strengthen our cooperation, and underscore that every nation has a responsibility to help us protect our people," he said. "We have moved forward with an effort to see that justice is done for those we lost, and we will not rest until that work is done."

Attacks against the West
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab called on Muslims Saturday to attack the West in retaliation against a movie that "insulted" the prophet Mohammed and has spread anger around the Muslim world.

"The Shebab mujahideen are urging people of Somalia to show their love for Islam and particularly to our Prophet Mohammed by making attacks against the West," Shebab spokesperson Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP by telephone, without specifying any targets.

"The unprovoked attacks against Prophet Mohammed are not initiated by media houses and movie makers but they are clear instructions by Western governments," he said.

"There should be great sacrifices when your country is under occupation and your religion is also under siege."

On Friday protesters burnt a US flag at a rally in Bulloburte, a town under Shebab control in central Somalia.

Since August last year, the Shebab have been forced out of Mogadishu and their other main strongholds in the south and centre of the country by Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union soldiers backed by Somalia's weak pro-government military.

But they still control vast portions of central and southern Somalia.

On Friday and Saturday in Mogadishu, a handful of people staged peaceful demonstrations chanting slogans that criticised the movie "Innocence of Muslims", a low-budget production that depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a thuggish deviant in clips released online.

Abdullahi Sheikh Osman, a respected spiritual leader in Mogadishu, came on Saturday to talk to the protesters.

"Don't kill innocent people for something they have not done," he urged Muslims.

"The man who made the nasty film is the Al-Qaeda of Christians.
If Muslims make havoc, then they are rewarding the crazy man," he told AFP.

"The person who made the filthy movie is not a religious person, but a reckless individual who dislikes harmony among people of different religious beliefs," he added.

The man apparently behind the film, 55-year-old Nakoula Bassily Nakoula, is a US-based Egyptian Copt who US officials said Friday was a fraudster who may have violated his parole.

Down, down USA
Police in Sydney, Australia fired pepper spray to contain protesters trying to enter the building housing the US consulate Saturday, as a wave of unrest against a film mocking Islam spread to Australia.

Bottles, shoes and other objects were hurled during the clashes with police which resulted in eight arrests, with six police officers injured as the unexpected protest brought parts of the city to a standstill.

"Police stopped the group attempting to enter the MLC centre that houses the American consulate," police superintendent Mark Walton told reporters of the clash, which left some protesters weeping from the impact of the spray.

Furious protests targeting symbols of US influence flared in cities across the Muslim world on Friday in retaliation for a crude film made in the United States by a right-wing Christian group that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed.

At least six protesters have died in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Sudan in similar protests against the film, with police there battling to defend American missions from mobs of stone-throwers.

In Sydney, Saturday shoppers looked on in surprise as protesters shouted "Down, down USA" and waved banners such as "Behead all those who insult the prophet" and "Obama, Obama, we love Osama".

"We are sick and tired of everyone mocking our beloved prophet," protester Houda Dib told AFP, as the crowd of about 500 gathered outside the US consulate.

"They have no right to mock our prophet. We don't go around mocking anyone's religion."

Demonstrators were pushed back from the steps outside the consulate by police, who then used capsicum spray, provoking anger among some in the crowd, many of whom had brought their children with them.

"They were aggravating the situation by pushing our brothers," Dib said. "This is supposed to be a peaceful protest."

But police said while there were peaceful elements in the crowd, others had a different agenda.

"There were elements of the group that were… aggressive, and violent at times and came into conflict with police," said Walton.

The protesters later moved several blocks away to Hyde Park, where at least one speaker called for calm, saying the aim of their protest – which some demonstrators said they had learned about from Facebook – was to send a message.

"We are here for the sake of our god," he said. "The message is clear, you cannot mock (the prophet)."

But further clashes broke out with police before the crowd eventually dispersed.

Two police cars were also damaged in the protest which saw some 150 police deployed to the central business district. – Sapa-AFP.

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