The moment that crowds charged the US Embassy in Yemen on Thursday
See also Iran Propaganda Feature: Fars News Makes Up Interview with "Bahrain Opposition Leader br>
Thursday's Libya, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Extraordinary Death, "Everyday" Death
MENA Video Special: The Biggest and Most Important Protests are in Syria
2146 GMT: Syria. Earlier we reported that the Free Syrian Army conducted an offensive against Assad positions in the Saleh el Dine district of Aleppo. We also reported that there were rumors that the Assad military retreated after the battle. Now, we've found many videos showing fighters inside the district today, claiming that they have captured the entire area. But this may be the most compelling evidence.
The video below claims to show the district being shelled, an activity that would not be possible if Assad troops were still in the district. Another video shows fires burning there, reportedly the result of the shelling:
The key to winning any battle is to maintain the initiative. The Assad regime is failing to do that. The FSA is mixing up attacks in the east with assaults on the military airport, and really disrupted the pattern of battle last weekend when they briefly captured a major military base in the heart of the city. The center of the city has been shelled for four days, and now this turn of events suggests that, at least for the moment, the Assad regime is more content to sit back and shell opposition forces than fight them on the streets.
That's a safe choice, but it may not be a winning one. That choice allows the FSA to choose the ground of the next battle, and forfeits the initiative to the insurgency. This fact, perhaps more than all the others, may explain why the battle for Aleppo will soon enter its third month.
2105 GMT: Syria. Back from a break.
According to the Local Coordination Committees, they have documented the deaths of 108 people today, but they have also documented 392 separate demonstrations nationwide, a message to the regime that “We will stay here.”
Anecdotally, protests seemed larger and more widespread over the last several weeks than they were a month or two ago. The resurgent protests send the message that the opposition on the ground in Syria has not given up, despite the violence, and will not give up. Not only that, but once again the themes of the protests were supportive of the Free Syrian Army, sending a message to the FSA's critics and doubters.
1938 GMT: Syria. There have been many reports that the Free Syrian Army has made significant gains inside the Saleh el Dine district of Aleppo. In and of itself, this is significant, as the Syrian regime claims to have "liberated" it from the insurgents over a month ago, but the FSA still routinely operates there.
In this context, some FSA soldiers in the district claim that they have killed an Iranian who was fighting with the Assad forces - and they have proof:
What's our take? The evidence is sketchy. Without a closeup of the ID badge and the body, it's impossible to verify. It would also be good to know what kind of weapon or uniform this man was equipped with.
Still, there are reporters in Aleppo, and if further evidence appears it could be a significant development.
1913 GMT: Syria. Earlier we noted that August was not only the bloodiest month in the history of the Syrian uprising, but the bloodiest month of any Middle Eastern country in the last decade or more (see update 1636). So far, September is on track to be nearly as bloody.
The LCC reports that 100 people have been killed today by Assad forces:
27 martyrs were reported in Aleppo; 24 in Damascus and its suburbs;19 in Deir Ezzor including including martyrs from Mohasan and Bokmal; 17 in Daraa; most of them in a massacre in Busra Al-Sham; 6 in Homs; 4 in Hama; and 3 in Idlib.
1905 GMT: Syria. Southern Damascus has been shelled since this morning, and there are reports that it has been shelled well into the night. These two videos show shells falling and fires raging in the Al Qadam district of Damascus at dusk and after nightfall.
John Horne provides this picture of the crowd, waving an Islamist flag, and burning an American flag that has a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it.
1834 GMT: Egypt. Now word of a potentially serious escalation on the Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian and Israeli armed forces have been battling Islamic insurgents for over a year:
Bedouin protestors burned a watchtower on the base of the Multi-National Force in the Sinai, Egypt— CNN Natl Security (@natlsecuritycnn) September 14, 2012
Egyptian military tells CNN Islamic militants have breached Sinai base of the multi-national force. Ongoing clashes, 4 injured— CNN Natl Security (@natlsecuritycnn) September 14, 2012
1811 GMT: Lebanon. An image of demonstrators attacking US food-fast chains KFC and Hardee's in Tripoli today --- one person died and 25 were injured in clashes (Photo: AP):
Journalist Laura Rozen offers one incident:
Salafists surrounded, assaulted @almonitor journalist filming man holding black Islamist flag in Tunis. 'Why are you filming the brothers?'— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) September 14, 2012
1714 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:
Earlier today, thousands marched down Budiya highway calling for democracy, in a protest organised by AlWefaq the largest opposition society:
1636 GMT: Syria. Many Syrian activists are upset by perceived hypocrisy (that the Arab world is paying more attention to a few Youtube videos in America than to an ongoing massacre in their own region), and by a lack of perspective.
Perspective, world: 6 deaths world-wide in three days of protests against movie. 81 deaths in Syria SO FAR today. Perspective!— Nuff Silence (@NuffSilence) September 14, 2012
Well, PBS has tried to put things in perspective. Looking only at the deadliest months of recent conflicts (Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq), Syria's August 2012 tops them all. Not only that, while they use the conservative number, 4114, it's possible that this number was more like 5400. To top it all off, while many of the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were combatant deaths, nearly all of the casualties in Syria have been civilian deaths (click for a larger image):
22 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 21 in Aleppo; 16 in Daraa; most of them in a massacre in Busra Al-Sham; 10 in Deir Ezzor including 2 from Bokmal; 6 in Homs; 3 in Hama; and 3 in Idlib.
First a note on the source - The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.
The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.
Second, a note that today's casualties are very widespread, and insurgent activity appears to have been fairly limited today. Most of these deaths are civilians. The Assad military, threatened by both protests and an undeterred insurgency, has again resorted to using bullets, tanks, artillery shells and air strikes to try to intimidate the opposition into submission. Based on the size of today's protests, it's evident that they have failed.
Claimed video of government shelling in Yabroud, a southern district of Damascus:
This video, shared by the LCC, reportedly shows a shell exploding in the Tadamun district in south Damascus. Both videos match dozens of other reports.
BREAKING: Massive plumes of smoke near US embassy and from American school in Tunis, #Tunisia. Clashes still ongoing ...— غادة عويس (@GhadaOwais) September 14, 2012
A picture posted on Facebook shows rioters storming the embassy.
1550 GMT: Sudan and Egypt. Amidst today's unrest in Khartoum and Cairo, Amnesty International intevenes on a wider issue, calling on the Egyptian government to "immediately withdraw its invitation to Sudanese President Omar AlBashir, and arrest him if he travels to Cairo". AlBashir is expected in Egypt on Sunday for a two day visit. However, Amnesty points to the International criminal Court arrest warrant on AlBashir for his alleged role in the Darfur genocide. AlBashir has been in Egypt twice in the past three years since the arrest warrant was issued --- March 2009 and March 2011 --- however this will be his first visit under President Morsi.
1540 GMT: Sudan. Confirmation of 3 deaths in Sudan, but like in Tunisia, it's not clear that US forces were involved.
Al Jazeera Arabic confirms the death of 3 protesters in front of US embassy as a result of being run over by Sudanese Police vehicles #Sudan— Usamah Mohammed (@simsimt) September 14, 2012
1534 GMT: Tunisia. One look at the latest photos from the US embassy in Tunis, and it's clear that the situation there is very serious:
US embassy in Tunisia is burning... twitter.com/_Syriana_/stat…— Tamaraتمارا (@_Syriana_) September 14, 2012
We'd note, however, that it does not appear (to our knowledge) that US forces opened fire to protect the embassy. From what we know, the gunfire was the result of Tunisian police trying to control the crowd.
Embassies are essentially islands in the middle of sovereign territory. As such, it is primarily the responsibility of the host nation to protect the embassies, and the foreign troops stationed inside the embassies are only a matter of last resort. In Tunisia, thus far, it does not seem as though that last resort is necessary.
1526 GMT: Libya. We noted this morning that flights had been halted at Benghazi airport (see GMT 0902 entry). Airspace has since been reopened. Wanis al-Sharif, Deputy Interior Minister, explained to Reuters the reason for the temporary closure:
Two American drones flew over Benghazi last night with knowledge of the Libyan authorities. They were visible to the eye, and came under attack by anti-aircraft weapons used by armed militias.
For this reason, Benghazi security decided to close down the Benghazi airport airspace. Any decision to allow an operation of any sort on Libya soil will be made in coordination with the congress and the new government.
1517 GMT: Sudan. Things are getting calmer now, but the way things unfolded is deeply disturbing. First, there were riots outside of the German and British embassies - fires were lit, cars damaged, glass broken. Then a convoy of buses and cars took the protesters to the US embassy, 18 kilometers away. The insinuation is that the government organized these buses.
Many of those buses have reportedly left the scene of the embassies, and things are quieter as a result.
A citizen reporter gives us this unconfirmed account:
Those numbers seem high, but the rest matches generally with what we've heard so far today.
1508 GMT: Syria. While rioters, not protesters, are gathering outside US embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, peaceful protests are extremely widespread in Syria and are growing. While there is some recognition there of the anger over the anti-Islamic videos, the focus of that anger is aimed in a different direction.
We've added additional videos in a separate feature showing large crowds gathered in many locations:
See our separate reports, MENA Video Special: The Biggest and Most Important Protests are in Syria
Hundreds of worshippers marched near the US embassy in Qatar on Friday over the anti-Islam video. The protest had been reportedly called for by Doha-based Egyptian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and began after his Friday sermon at the Omar bin Khateb mosque. The protesters, a mix of Qataris and foreigners, chanted slogans like: "Obama, Obama, we are all Osama," and "the people want the downfall of the [US] ambassador."
1456 GMT: Tunisia. More developments:
FLASH - At least 5 protesters wounded by police gunfire near U.S. embassy in Tunis, large fire inside embassy compound: Reuters reporter— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 14, 2012
1451 GMT: Sudan. Watching live video it is clear that rioters are doing significant damage to the US embassy in Sudan. There are also rumors that the Sudanese government is actually bussing protesters to the embassy:
1445 GMT: Sudan. Now gunfire is also reported at the US embassy in Khartoum:
REUTERS REPORTER HEARS GUNFIRE AT US EMBASSY COMPOUND IN SUDAN— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 14, 2012
1440 GMT: Tunisia. Gunfire is reported near the US embassy in Tunis:
1437 GMT: Sudan. We mistakenly wrote "US" instead of "German" in that last entry, but now it appears rioters are besetting the US embassy in Khartoum as well:
Protestors now inside compound of US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. Were bussed there from the UK/German embassies when they'd finished there.— Tim Marshall (@Skytwitius) September 14, 2012
1428 GMT: Sudan. The first video (no sound) of an attack against the German
US and British Embassies in Khartoum, Sudan:
1421 GMT: MENA Updates on the situation in Tunisia:
FLASH - Protesters jump over wall into U.S. embassy in Tunis: Reuters witness— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 14, 2012
PROTESTERS SET FIRE TO TREES, BREAK WINDOWS INSIDE U.S. EMBASSY COMPOUND IN TUNIS - REUTERS WITNESS— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 14, 2012
Meanwhile, US officials are getting jumped (no pun intended) and are sending additional marines to the embassy in Yemen:
50 Marines have arrived in Yemen to defend the embassy, and precaution against further violence: Senior U.S. Official— Julian E. Barnes (@julianbarnes) September 14, 2012
1403 GMT: Lebanon: There are reports that 1 person is dead, 25 injured in protests and clashes in Tripoli. Several American fast-food restaurants were targeted - a KFC was destroyed, and an Arby's, and as we reported earlier, there are also reports that a Krispy Kreme was also destroyed.
1355 GMT: Sudan. As we reported earlier, fires have been lit near the German embassy in Khartoum (it's unclear if the actual embassy is on fire). Other damage has reportedly been done to the embassy.
Reuters offers this possible motive:
Sudan's Foreign Ministry also criticized Germany for allowing a protest last month by right-wing activists carrying a caricatures of the Prophet and for Chancellor Angela Merkel giving an award in 2010 to a Danish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet in 2005 triggering demonstrations across the Islamic world.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under pressure from Islamists who feel the government has given up the religious values of his 1989 Islamist coup.
A citizen journalist in Sudan shares this photo:
1345 GMT: Lebanon. A snapshot of both the black comedy and the tragedy of the demonstrations today from journalist Jenan Moussa and blogger Mustapha Hamoui:
An angry mob in Lebanon protesting the film set a KFC branch on fire. No spicy hot wings for the Pope today in #Lebanon.— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) September 14, 2012
An angry mob in Lebanon protesting the film set a KFC branch on fire. No spicy hot wings for the Pope today in #Lebanon.— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) September 14, 2012
KFC is getting all the glory , but Krispy Kream was the real victim. No more donut and coffee for me.. #ChickenWingJihad— Mustapha Hamoui (@Beirutspring) September 14, 2012
1326 GMT: Syria. The largest, most widespread, likely the most peaceful, and definitely the most dangerous protests today are in Syria - not elsewhere in the Middle East. While protesters elsewhere are focused on a Youtube video created by an individual in the United States, Syrians are using their own Youtube videos to oppose the Assad regime.
Every Friday has a theme - today's is "Idlib: the cemetery of airplanes and the symbol of victories," a commemoration of victories won by the Free Syrian Army that have left perhaps dozens of military helicopters and jet fighters destroyed in the last several weeks. That's the theme not just in Idlib, but nearly everywhere.
Below is just a tiny sample of protest videos that we've collected so far today:
NOTE - some videos have moved. See our separate reports, MENA Video Special: The Biggest and Most Important Protests are in Syria
Khirbet Gazallah, a town in Daraa province that was viciously attacked by Assad forces in the last week - since this protest, the town has reportedly been shelled:
The people of Kafarnabouda have messages for the world (translation by the always helpful Zilal1, a must-follow Twitter account):
"To the Arab and Western world: your silence is better than your words - Kafarnabouda 14/9/2012."
"Kafarnabouda - Friday of "Idlib: the cemetery of airplanes and the symbol of victories"
"Everything but not the Prophet of God" (meaning touch everything except Prophet Mohammad).
This last is an apparent reference to the other protests going on in the Middle East. However, many protesters have also noted that some of Bashar Al Assad's supporters have been painting "there is no God but Bashar" on walls of opposition areas, a response to a popular chant by protesters, "There is no God but Allah," which basically means, "We won't bow down to Assad."
1245 GMT: Sudan. A small group of rioters has lit the German embassy on fire. It's unclear how much damage there is.
Why Germany? The Guardian reports:
And what has Germany done to deserve this? The general view seems to be that its embassy (which is next door to the British one) is easier to reach than the US embassy.
In Syria, however, protests are much larger, much more widespread, and have a totally different focus. Protests there aren't focused on a single Youtube video, either, but on a struggle for democracy that has cost the Syrian people perhaps more than 25,000 lives.
This fact is not lost on the people of Kafranbel.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us through the morning.
1120 GMT: Yemen. Yemen's spokesperson in Washington, Mohammed Albasha, has reported that shots were fired in the air to disperse a crowd at the US Embassy in Sana'a. He said there had been no casualties.
Security forces in the Jordanian capital Amman have prevented protesters reaching the US Embassy.
Monem Elyasser said those arrested were not directly tied to the attacks that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. He did not give the identities of the suspect or details of the allegations.
Despite our resentment of the continued appearance of productions like the anti-Muslim film that led to the current violence, we do not hold the American government or its citizens responsible for acts of the few that abuse the laws protecting freedom of expression.
In a new democratic Egypt, Egyptians earned the right to voice their anger over such issues, and they expect their government to uphold and protect their right to do so. However, they should do so peacefully and within the bounds of the law.
The breach of the United States Embassy premises by Egyptian protesters is illegal under international law. The failure of the protecting police force has to be investigated.
El-Shater concludes with the "hope that the relationships that both Americans and Egyptians worked to build in the past couple of months can sustain the turbulence of this week’s events".
The Brotherhood said it would be present only in small numbers in Tahrir Square for a "symbolic protest".
0945 GMT: Lebanon and Syria. Claiming support by Hezbollah for the Assad regime through training and logistics, the US Treasure imposed sanctions on the leader of the organisation, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and two other members on Thursday.
"By aiding Assad's violent campaign against the Syrian people and working to support a regime that will inevitably fall, Hezbollah's ongoing activity undermines regional stability and poses a direct threat to Lebanon's security," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said. Hezbollah's actions, overseen by Hassan Nasrallah and executed by Mustafa Badr Al-Din and Talal Hamiyah, clearly reveal its true nature as a terrorist and criminal organization."
The sanctions bar Americans from doing business with the three men and freezes any assets they might have in the US.
0935 GMT: Egypt. Clashes have continued this morning near the US Embassy in Cairo with protesters throwing stones and police responding --- a witness tweets:
Just saw ~20 police beat the crap out of a protester & drag him to the other side of the new wall at Simon Bolivar Sq #Cairo— Ghazala Irshad (@ghazalairshad) September 14, 2012
I'm seeing many police officers with injuries too, though more minor than those of the protesters #Cairo— Ghazala Irshad (@ghazalairshad) September 14, 2012
Irshad also posts a photograph:
0925 GMT: Bahrain. Opposition activists claim authorities have blocked the Web LiveStream of the United Nations Human Rights Council's proceedings after the kingdom was one of 16 countries criticised (see 0554 GMT) for being "far from sufficient" in preventing intimidation and abuses.
The NCCDC is based inside Syria. Its last known visit to China was in February.
Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were former Navy SEALs who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and staff member Sean Smith also died in the violence.
"We received orders on Thursday evening to immediately suspend all flights for security reasons," a source told AFP.
0854 GMT: Bahrain. Minutes after I posted our feature, "Iran Propaganda: Fars News Makes Up Interview with "Bahrain Opposition Leader", I notice an article in the Gulf Daily News building on the theme, "Iran Links Proved".
The story does not quite match the headline with the Minister of Interior effectively saying to the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations, "We have proof but we can't show you":
Interior Minister Lieutenant General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalia last night said there was evidence of outside interference in Bahrain's internal affairs....
He referred to an article in a foreign newspaper which claimed that the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) did not find interference by Iran.
"But the commission's report notes that the government has information of foreign involvement, and that this could not be made public for reasons of national security."
0554 GMT: Bahrain. The kingdom was among 16 countries criticised on Thursday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay as "far from sufficient" in preventing regime members from resorting to intimidation and attacks on activists.
Pillay told the UN Human Rights Council:
People may be threatened or harassed by government officials, including through public statements by high-level authorities. Associations and NGOs may see their activities monitored or restricted. Smear campaigns against those who cooperate with the U.N. may be organized. Threats may be made via phone calls, text messages or even direct contacts. People may also be arrested, beaten or tortured and even killed.
Pillay claimed there has been a "lack of accountability in relation to the majority of reported cases of reprisals".
The report to the Council covers mid-June 2011 to mid-July 2012, with cases in Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, China, Colombia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
The President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Mohammed Al-Maskati, told the Council that he had "received more than a dozen anonymous phone calls threatening my life and the safety of my family" during the previous three days because he tweeted that he would be attending the session.
Minister of Human Rights minister, Dr. Salah Bin Ali Abdulrahman, said, "We are serious about issues related to human rights principles", with investigation of any allegations of abuses.
0527 GMT: Bahrain. Prominent activist Said Yousif was briefly detained and questioned last night.
Yousif has been seized by authorities on several occasions this year, including an incident last month in front of his young daughters.
0517 GMT: Yemen. Demonstrations continued near several US diplomatic missions on Thursday. The most serious clashes occurred in Sana'a in Yemen, with four people killed and 34 wounded amid all-day protests in which crowds briefly entered the Embassy compound. The demonstrators removed the embassy's sign on the outer wall, took down the US flag, and burned it and a number of diplomatic vehicles.
In Egypt, the Ministry of Health reported 224 people were injured, eight of whom were hospitalised.
0510 GMT: Syria. After two days dominated by news of the demonstrations and attacks at and near US diplomatic missions in North Africa and the Middle East, we return our attention to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
The Local Coordination Committees report that 165 people died at the hands of security forces on Thursday, including 66 in Damascus and its suburbs and 52 in Aleppo Province.