Skip to main content

Protests near U.S. Embassy in Cairo continue after Obama warning

By the CNN Wire Staff
September 13, 2012 -- Updated 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Protests in front of U.S. Embassy in Cairo continue into Friday
  • Obama's "ally" statement puts Egypt on notice to stem embassy violence, analyst says
  • At least 224 injured in Thursday clashes in Cairo near U.S. embassy, state TV reports
  • Embassy attackers "do not represent any of us," Egyptian president says

Cairo (CNN) -- Protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo continued into Friday, after U.S. President Barack Obama issued what is being seen as a stern warning to Egypt that relations between the two countries will be shaped by "how they respond to this incident."

"I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy," Obama told Telemundo in an interview to be aired Thursday night. "They're a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident."

In the interview, recorded Wednesday, Obama said that if Egypt takes actions that "indicate they're not taking responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that's going to be a real big problem."

Meanwhile, violent protests -- sparked by outrage over an anti-Islam film made in the United States and posted online -- marked their fourth day in Cairo. The film, which denigrates the Prophet Mohammed, has sparked protests across the region.

Pakistani demonstrators beat an effigy of Florida pastor Terry Jones during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Lahore on Monday, September 24. More than 50 people have died around the world in violence linked to protests against the low-budget movie, which mocks Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, since the first demonstrations erupted on September 11. See more of CNN's best photography. Pakistani demonstrators beat an effigy of Florida pastor Terry Jones during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Lahore on Monday, September 24. More than 50 people have died around the world in violence linked to protests against the low-budget movie, which mocks Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, since the first demonstrations erupted on September 11. See more of CNN's best photography.
Anti-U.S. demonstrations worldwide
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Anti-U.S. demonstrations worldwide Anti-U.S. demonstrations worldwide
Riot police battle protesters in Cairo
Fringe group behind Libya attacks?
Middle East attacks against U.S.

Clouds of tear gas wafted over the hulks of burned-out cars Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators battled police 300 yards from the embassy. The demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and chanted, "With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Prophet Mohammed."

At least 224 people were injured, according to Egyptian state television, Nile TV.

Six things to know about the Benghazi attack

Images from Friday morning showed throngs of people still massed in the area, with authorities stationed in front of them, under a dark sky. While there was ample activity and apparent commotion, there was no audible chanting or notable clashes evident between authorities and protesters.

The protests, and Obama's comments, come during a delicate period in the relationship between the United States and Egypt under Mohammed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected leader since the overthrow last year of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

They also come amid heightened tensions at U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa following Tuesday's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American consular officials dead.

That same day, police and Egyptian troops formed defensive lines around the embassy to prevent demonstrators who had also gathered there from advancing, but not before the protesters had scaled the embassy fence and placed a black flag atop a ladder in the American compound.

Police arrested four protesters, but the failure of Egyptian authorities to take action sooner has been widely questioned.

Some also questioned President Morsy's response. He initially focused his criticism on the film as an unacceptable slap at Islam.

Ambassador's killing shines light on Muslim sensitivities around Prophet Mohammed

"The presidency condemns in the strongest terms the attempt of a group to insult the place of the Messenger, the Prophet Mohammed ... and condemns the people who have produced this radical work," the president said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. "The Egyptian people, both Muslims and Christians, refuse such insults on sanctities."

But after speaking with Obama in what the White House described as a review of the "strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt," Morsy directly criticized the attacks for the first time Thursday.

"Those who are attacking the embassies do not represent any of us," he said in comments from Brussels, Belgium, where he was visiting the headquarters of the European Union.

Obama's comments were widely seen as a warning to Egypt, which under Mubarak was widely considered a staunch U.S. ally and remains a major recipient of American foreign aid.

"I think it was a little bit of a strange choice of words to say that Egypt is not an ally," Atlantic Council analyst Michelle Dunne said. "But I think that his purpose is to put President Morsy on notice that he really has to do what's necessary to prevent the escalation of these demonstrations in Cairo to what we have seen, for example, in Libya."

On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama used the correct "diplomatic and legal terms" in that the United States and Egypt do not have a formal alliance or mutual defense treaty.

But, he said, Egypt remains "a longstanding partner" of the United States, and U.S. officials have no intention of cutting aid to the country.

Yemeni police, demonstrators hurt in U.S. Embassy clashes

Brookings Institution analyst Shadi Hamid said it was telling that the United States seemed angrier about Morsy's delayed response than it was when the country's military government disbanded parliament this year.

"After getting on 'right side' of history, security still trumps democracy," Hamid posted on Twitter. "That's fine (and not surprising) but let's not pretend otherwise," he said.

But Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said the president's assessment was largely correct.

"They have gone from a staunch ally under Mubarak to one which is a country that's seeking its own way," McCain said.

He said that the United States needs to have a good relationship with Egypt, but that it is understandable why many in the United States are displeased with its leaders.

"They have a pretty big army," McCain said. "They could have protected our embassy."

Thursday's protests were a continuation of demonstrations that broke out Wednesday night near the embassy.

Protesters tried to push through barbed wire fencing protecting the embassy and set fire to two police trucks and a car, according to Alla Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Forces pushed back the protesters after the vehicles were set on fire.

"Forces were able to push them down toward Tahrir Square farther from the embassy street," Mahmoud said, adding that some arrests had been made.

At least 13 protesters and six police officers were injured in the earlier clashes, Egyptian government officials said Thursday.

Reaction to film fuels debate on free speech vs. hate speech

CNN's Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Ian Lee in Cairo, and Caroline Faraj, Jomana Karadsheh, Matt Smith, Brian Walker, Elise Labott, Paul Cruickshank and Tracy Doueiry contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
Shortly after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September, a phone call was placed from the area.
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
A testy exchange erupted between Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey during the latter's testimony about September's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
January 24, 2013 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took on Republican congressional critics of her department's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack in Libya.
January 24, 2013 -- Updated 0122 GMT (0922 HKT)
The Pentagon released an hour-by-hour timeline of the September 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
January 29, 2013 -- Updated 1613 GMT (0013 HKT)
Bilal Bettamer wants to save Benghazi from those he calls "extremely dangerous people." But his campaign against the criminal and extremist groups that plague the city has put his life at risk.
September 23, 2012 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Two former Navy SEALs who died last week in an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya died after rushing to help their colleagues.
September 19, 2012 -- Updated 0224 GMT (1024 HKT)
The former Pakistani Ambassador to the UK, Akbar Ahmed, explains why an anti-Islam film has triggered massive protests.
September 14, 2012 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
The fall of dictatorships does not guarantee the creation of free societies, says Ed Husain, author of "The Islamist."
September 25, 2012 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
Protests have swept the world following the online release of a film that depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
September 19, 2012 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
A satirical magazine pours further oil on the fiery debate between freedom of expression and offensive provocation.
Was the attack on the Libyan U.S. Consulate the result of a mob gone awry, a planned terror attack or a combination of the two?
The images of the American embassy burning in Benghazi might have conjured up memories of Tehran in 1979 but the analogy is false.
September 17, 2012 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
Libyan authorities have made more arrests in connection with the attack on the U.S. consulate that left four Americans dead.
September 17, 2012 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
Three days before the deadly attack in Benghazi, a local security official says he warned U.S. diplomats about deteriorating security.
For the latest news on developments in the Middle East and North Africa in Arabic.
ADVERTISEMENT