Tunisia police fire gas, warning shots at US embassy protest
Police fired tear gas and warning shots as more than 1,000 stone-throwing protesters gathered on Friday (September 14th) outside the US embassy in a Tunis suburb to denounce a film mocking Islam, AFP reported.
A thick black plume of smoke was seen rising from the car park of the embassy, with a policeman telling AFP that some demonstrators had thrown petrol bombs.
The security forces intervened when hardline Salafists among the demonstrators outside the US mission started hurling rocks, the journalist said.
The police responded with a sustained volley of tear gas, before loud bursts of gunfire rang out in the streets around the embassy, as the protesters tried to regroup.
The exact nature of the weapons being fired was not immediately clear, but police often use rubber bullets at demonstrations that turn violent.
"They are firing to prevent other groups from coming," one protester told AFP.
Just minutes before the clashes broke out, the protesters had been shouting anti-US slogans including: "Obama! Obama! We are all Osama!" in reference to al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US special forces last year.
They also hurled insults at the police, accusing them of "protecting" those who denigrate Islam. The majority of the protesters appeared to be hard-line Salafists, waving the black Islamist flag.
Earlier, security was boosted around the embassy 10 kilometres (six miles) north of the city centre, with a heavy deployment of riot police and soldiers and extra barbed wire and checkpoints on nearby roads.
Tunisian imams, at mosques in the capital, had earlier called for protests outside the embassy to denounce a film mocking Islam posted on the Internet that has sparked anger across the Islamic world.
The amateur video, called "Innocence of Muslims," portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent and pokes fun at the Prophet Mohammed.
Anti-American protests have spread across the Arab world and to many Muslim-majority countries, with US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in Libya on Tuesday, reportedly by a mob angered by the film.
Clashes also erupted on Friday in Sudan, Yemen and Lebanon.
Some 300 Salafists had demonstrated outside the US embassy in Tunis on Wednesday, and tried to break through the gates of the compound before being scattered by police firing tear gas.
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