Protesters run through the streets of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa on Thursday.
Hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film chanted “death to America” as they stormed the American Embassy compound in the Yemeni capital on Thursday. The attack follows Tuesday’s sacking of a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed the American ambassador and three others. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was also targeted Tuesday when a mob besieged the building and ripped down the U.S. flag.
Yemen’s president apologized for the assault and promised to find the people responsible, just as the president of Libya did. Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s Islamist president, was slow to comment on the attack on the embassy in Cairo, but vowed to prevent further assaults on diplomatic missions.
Protests triggered by the controversial film were threatening to spread to other countries across the Muslim world.
The string of assaults this week, in Yemen, Egypt and the storming of a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, point to an increased boldness among Islamists who have become more powerful since last year’s wave of revolts toppled authoritarian leaders.
The anger over the movie denigrating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad has also put the region’s new leaders — some of whom are themselves Islamists — in a difficult corner, between a base demanding a free hand to respond to the insult and U.S. pressure to crack down. In the past, protests have broken out over perceived insults to Islam from the West, but in Arab countries they never escalated to the degree of breaching embassies, suggesting now hard-liners feel they can act with impunity.