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Mass Protests At U.S. Embassy in Yemen

Aired September 13, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We begin this morning with breaking news from Yemen. Mass protests at the U.S. embassy in Yemeni capital of Sana'a.

Witnesses telling CNN that security forces fire shot into the air in an effort to disperse the demonstration outside the embassy compound. These right here -- these are live pictures of what's going on right now outside the U.S. embassy compound in the Yemeni city of Sana'a.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon.

We understand, Barbara, that you have been to that particular embassy. What can you tell us?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Those pictures are very familiar, Zoraida and Christine. This embassy is located on a very busy, commercial street in the capital of Sana'a.

What I can tell you is this is one of the most secure embassies that the United States has. It looks like they are very close to that front gate situation. The Yemeni forces control the street, the outside perimeter of the embassy. There are checkpoints and anyone on that street who tries to approach the embassy is stopped well before they get there.

This is a place that has seen many protests, has seen attacks, seen attempted attacks, one of the most secure. But let's be very cautious here. We have seen the unrest at U.S. installations over the last few days. Reports are the Yemeni forces are trying to control the situation. We will have to keep monitoring this in the coming hours.

SAMBOLIN: Barbara, we are hearing about shots fired. Is that from inside the embassy out, or from outside the embassy in?

STARR: Well, the reports that eyewitnesses are giving indicate that Yemeni forces have been firing into the air at this point, trying to disperse the crowd. Perhaps I think trying to move them away from the gate of the embassy, trying to move them back.

There are a variety of security forces that are at the embassy as I say. It is on that street U.S. forces, Marines, U.S. contract security forces, State Department diplomatic security would not typically, almost never, be on the street.

You do see them -- I don't know what these pictures are showing, we're all looking them at the same time. We are seeing attempts to climb the gate there.

SAMBOLIN: Scale, yes.

STARR: To scale the gate. Those fires are being set on the street, perhaps bad optics but not so troublesome. The fact that they'd be getting on to that gate situation, you know, I'm looking at this with you. That would be troublesome to say the least.

It should be the case that they should not be able, that the Yemeni forces, should be able to control it and keep them away from that. We're all looking at this at the same time.

ROMANS: And, Barbara, that's the job of the host country, right? I mean, the United States has an embassy or facility in the country -- it is the job of the host country to keep that facility secure and safe.

And also, there are U.S. Marines on location as well, often. That's a failure of the Yemeni authorities if those protesters get so close, am I right?

STARR: Well, that's right. I mean, you know, there's been so much discussion about it. Let's be clear -- any diplomatic installation anywhere in the world operates under the security umbrella of the country it is in. It is the responsibility of the host country to provide enough security so that embassy is not at risk from the outside.

The Marines that guard an embassy are installation inside. They are there to protect the personnel, to protect the classified information, to really sort of be the last line of resort, you know, if this kind of trouble breaks out -- responsibility of the host country.

Think of it this way, the Yemeni embassy here in Washington, D.C., U.S. law enforcement protects it. It protects the street outside. It makes sure if protesters get too close, if there was a protest, they don't risk the embassy. This is what happens all over the world.

So let's go back a minute. What you saw yesterday was President Obama say he wants to up security at embassies around the world. Right now, we know for the last several hours the State Department, the Pentagon, the White House, the national security community, going through the security arrangements at U.S. embassies around the world --

SAMBOLIN: Barbara, if you can hold that thought, we're going to get back to you.

We have a reporter who is live right now on the phone, Hakim Almasmari. He's on the phone from Sana'a.

You are there. We are seeing pictures. What can you tell us? HAKIM ALMASMARI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): The security forces do not want this to escalate. They are trying to do it as peaceful as possible. Protesters are somewhat trying to enter the embassy. But again, as you heard, they -- Yemen does not want this to escalate. They know if blood falls on the ground, this will only get worse. They're trying to use batons if needed.

But as of now, it has not gotten violent. And if it does, it will only be for the worse. Yemen knows that if one is killed in this protest, it could escalate. It could leave the way (INAUDIBLE). That is why they are using batons and a lot of wisdom in dealing with the protesters, though in the past many protests at this place were violent over last year or so.

ROMANS: That's a real careful calculus they have to do here, trying to control the protesters, keep things from escalating out of control. But at the same time, you know, shots fired makes things a little bit worse. It's a different situation, you're saying, for the Yemeni forces there.

What is the mood? Why this up swelling of anger against U.S. installations? Is this still tied to at least the rumors on the street, of this odd homemade video that is said to insult the prophet?

ALMASMARI: All of this is linked to that video itself, nothing else. Yemenis know that the U.S. has been behind the anti-terror war and many civilians were killed by the U.S. drone policy. But no protests took place against the U.S., no protests was placed condemning them.

This is the first time that such protests are taking place. It's all to the video itself. They know that that video is the beginning of what could be a long-term movie war against Prophet Muhammad. They believe anything that against the Prophet Muhammad should not be taken lightly and should be fought from the beginning.

I'm pretty sure this will not get violence. Most of the Yemeni protesters are unarmed. As of now, they have no weapons.

SAMBOLIN: Hakim --

ALMASMARI: So, this is only to express anger and if security forces deal with it wisely, it will not be violence. And in an hour or so, it will come to an end.

SAMBOLIN: Hakim, you said something very important. You don't see anybody who's armed. We see people scaling gates. What are you seeing on the ground there? We see fire. What are you seeing?

ALMASMARI: Yes. They are trying to climb the gate. That is true. But they are not armed gunmen.

In Yemen that kind of thing, protesters are trying to express anger or trying to feel their message has been reached. These are not armed, according to all the sources that we talked to and eyewitnesses on the ground. We believe that's why security forces are trying to deal with them in a very wise manner and not shoot at them. If they were armed, security forces would have shot at them directly if they were trying to climb the embassy with weapons.

ROMANS: We should say that security forces, CNN's reporting is that security forces have fired shots into the air to try to disperse this crowd. That is according to our reporting on the ground from eyewitnesses who are in that crowd and around that crowd watching it.

Just real quickly, can you tell me -- you know, it has been since October 2000 is when the USS Cole bombing happened in the Gulf of Aden. This has been a complicated relationship between the United States and Yemen, an ally of the United States now for the last decade.

Can you tell me about the relationship between these two countries, especially in the wake of Arab spring?

ALMASMARI: The relationship between Yemen and U.S. was very, very powerful and strong the last couple years. They only increased for the better this year, you know, with the cooperation by President Hadi with the U.S. and the anti-terror war.

So, the cooperation and coordination between both governments is very high. However, the people are not happy of the U.S. policy in Yemen. It's changed from the past, from 2007, 2008, and even 2009, the U.S. policies were respected in Yemen. But that slightly changed over the last year or so after the intense U.S. drone policy in Yemen.

So, there's anger in the air among the people themselves, especially after the drones killed 13 civilians in the central part of Yemen just two weeks ago. People are angry and it's not where it was a couple years back. And that is why the U.S. is trying to invest more on development and infrastructure projects rather than only focus on the anti-terror war.

ROMANS: Hakim Almasmari in Sana'a, Yemen -- thanks so much.

Stay with us. We want to go back to Barbara Starr, quickly.

You know, Barbara, we're talking about the relationship between these two countries. And he mentioned -- Hakim mentioned something so interesting about the drone surveillance in the Middle East. That's something I suspect is only going to increase as America tries to keep an eye on these interests.

STARR: Well, you know, we are now since yesterday, able to report that U.S. drones are flying over eastern Libya, for example, trying to collect intelligence, survey targets, see if they can find those responsible for the attacks in Libya. So, yes, this has become a root of choice drones to collect the intelligence and then possibly armed drones to strike targets.

I want to go back to this video you're showing. This is the main gate of the U.S. embassy in Yemen on that busy commercial street in the capital of Sana'a. The concern will be as the crowds form -- will they disperse? Will they go away? I think our report from the street there is quite correct. The Yemeni forces don't want to see this escalate, so they're doing what they can. This is the main gate on the street. We won't get into a lot of detail, but the embassy buildings are behind it and the embassy goes back for some particular distance.

So, this is the main gate on the street. But Sana'a is an unsettled city. They have demonstrations. They have a level of violence that's concerning to all.

So, the issue in the coming hours will be, will this disperse -- militant elements in Sana'a try and take advantage of this situation? Will some of them try and stir up more trouble against the U.S. embassy in the coming hours?

This is what the calculation is right now. Can the Yemeni security forces out on the street disperse this without any violence and can they make the protesters at least for now, disperse, or will this grow? We're just going to have to monitor it and see.

SAMBOLIN: I think another really important point that Hakim made is that he did not see any of the protesters armed.

STARR: Well, yes. He's there so his word goes right now. I'm not trying to stir any contradiction up here.

But the facts are that Yemen is a country where almost everyone is armed, even on a regular -- men armed on a regular basis on the streets. If you walk the streets of Yemen, you will see many men routinely carrying AK-47s. It is simply what happens in Yemen. It is their culture. It is their way.

It is something they've tried to deal with. But arms are very prevalent in Yemen. That's why I say the concern will be --


STARR: -- not these protesters. That's right. But the escalation, the potential for escalation.

And that's why I'm quite certain the security forces want to get this dispersed as quickly as they can.

ROMANS: Yes, using this protest as a shield for any other kind of more targeted military investigation. And just what they're investigating right now in Libya.

Barbara, tell me a little bit about the military moves in the region now. The U.S. is reacting to the murder, the assassination of its ambassador to Libya. What are the military moves in the whole region?

STARR: Well, absolutely. President Obama yesterday saying justice will be done. Now, we are seeing, perhaps, the pieces being put into place. Two U.S. Navy warships moving to the coast of Libya. This is USS McFaul and the USS Laboon. What are these warships provide? They have Tomahawk missiles that could -- could -- be used, fired against militant targets if the U.S. determines that they can find the targets that were responsible. The people, the elements, the strongholds where the militants may have come from who were responsible for the attacks in Benghazi.

This basically gives the President options, if you will. We talked about it a minute ago. You have drones flying over eastern Libya, collecting intelligence, surveying on the ground, looking for the targets. If they can put together with the intelligence and if they feel they have a credible target they can go after, they can take that to the attacks in Benghazi.

This will give the President an option. He could use Tomahawk missiles. He could use missiles on armed drones. They could get an indication that the Libyans are going after the targets.

But this puts the pieces into place. U.S. Navy warships, Tomahawk missiles, it sends a very particular message, even if those warships don't fire, if they simply stay on patrol. This is the message that the U.S. is sending to the terrorists.

SAMBOLIN: And just to recap here, in Sana'a, it is the Yemeni police who are taking action here and trying to stop the protest in a peaceful manner.

STARR: Right. The Yemenis have an interior ministry of security forces that is quite extensive. Over the years, one has to say that in the past, there's been a lot of question about the loyalty of those security forces, under the previous president. Whether they were sheltering al Qaeda in their country and allowing them to operate.

But with the new government in place in Yemen, there seems to it be a good deal of progress in those security forces being willing and able to go after al Qaeda elements. The U.S. has quite an extensive training program for Yemeni forces. They've been training them in counterterrorism and anti-terrorism technique ,which are applicable here. No one's saying these protesters are terrorists but it's the kind of training for the security forces to deal with the kind of situation you see unfolding.

And again, you know, I think it's very clear that the security forces are trying to do what they can to disperse this before it gets out of hand, before it escalates and we see anything resembling what has transpired in Cairo or Libya.

ROMANS: All right. To let you know what's going on here, Barbara Starr is going to stick with us. She's watching these pictures as well. We're seeing mass protests at the U.S. embassy in Yemen.

When you're looking at these pictures, you can see men chanting, starting fires, throwing rocks and actually scaling a fence, what Barbara says is the front gate of the U.S. facility there in Sana'a. There you can see the men climbing that gate.

I mean, they are being very careful. Security forces are being careful, firing into the air to try to disperse this crowd. But again, there's real awareness that you don't want to elevate this into something more dangerous this. We've seen this violence at embassies and facilities in the U.S. now for some 48 hours.

Right now, the U.S. is investigating whether the attack at the American consulate in Benghazi was planned in advance in Libya. At first, it was believed that the killing of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was carried out by angry mobs protesting a cruel, anti-muslin movie. But CNN has learned U.S. officials now suspect the attackers may have used those protesters as a diversion. And the date of the attack 9/11 might not be a coincidence.

Let's get the latest from Jomana Karadsheh. She's live on the phone from Tripoli, Libya, and was with us yesterday as all of this was unfolding. So, you know, we had said at the time and you had pointed out, what was happening in Cairo, the mobs -- angry mobs in Cairo at the embassy there was less organized and less armed than what we were seeing in Libya in Benghazi. So now they're trying to figure out, Jomana, if indeed this was a targeted planned association?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDNET (via telephone): Absolutely, Christine. This is what the United States is looking into and the Libyan authorities here are looking into, too. The issue here is that we know, there are groups that operate in that part of the country, in eastern Libya, in and around the city of Benghazi, who are radical Islamist groups with ties to al Qaeda.

There are some training camps that CNN reported on that are in the eastern city of Derna that has a presence of a number of known al Qaeda figures who arrived in the country this year. Libyan authorities have told us in the past that they were keeping an eye on these camps. They knew of their existence. They knew these al Qaeda figures were in the country.

But nothing has been done in facing these groups. We have seen attacks that took place over weeks and months back in June. The U.S. consulate was attacked with a bomb that exploded right outside the gate. There were no casualties in that attack.

There are a number of other tracks claimed by jihadist groups targeting western (INAUDIBLE) in the city of Benghazi. So, of course, here, we are hearing from the government yesterday also, senior Libyan officials saying that the attack clearly coincided with the September 11th anniversary.

They're saying they will not allow Libyan land to be used by these groups to carry out what they describe as revenge attacks against the West -- strong words coming from the Libyan government, Christine, but we have to see what actually they are going to do, what action will they take.

ROMANS: Meantime, you've got the U.S. military moving a couple carriers closer to the coast. You've got more drone surveillance of U.S. facilities. And you've got a country, a growing nascent country that the U.S. is -- you know, is a budding ally of the United States. But at the same time, there has -- there has to be -- you know, there has to be an investigation and someone is going to have to pay for the murder of an American ambassador.

How careful or how concern ready people on ground about, you know, more tension between the United States and Libya over this?

KARADSHEH: Absolutely. This is what we heard yesterday, Christine, with the news came out, that the United States was moving those Navy destroyers. They are deploying more Marines to protect the embassy here. The reaction was fixed from Libyans I spoke to.

This is regular Libyans. We have not heard official reaction from the government here. Ordinary Libyans are saying this government is not doing anything to confront these armed groups that are a threat not only to the Western interest in Libya to the United States, they're also a threat to Libyans. They worry about what these groups might do to our country.

So, they want someone confronting these groups and dealing with them, addressing this issue. And they said if their government is unable to do this, then they're happy to see the United States do it. But at the same time there are mixed opinions here, Christine. Some other people are saying, no, we don't want to see any foreign troops on the ground. We don't want to see any sort of military intervention. They worry that Libya might be turned into another Iraq.

ROMANS: Right now, we're looking at the pictures from yesterday. But you're seeing the developments, Jomana, right now in Yemen. I mean, that's what we're following this morning. And obviously a tense, tense situation there as security forces don't want to inflame already outraged people on the ground, but also don't want to have a repeat where you got an American facility that has actually stormed. You get somebody over the wall there.

So, I mean -- the way things sort of work out, it's noontime. It's lunch time right now in Yemen at least. This is during the Arab spring when saw men mostly taking to the streets, this is when people were most fired up. This is when you would see kind of the cycle of outrage that would continue -- although that was against the government, not against the United States.

Do you expect this will die down if they can control the crowd and not anybody get in?

KARADSHEH: Just to be clear are we talking about what's going on in Yemen or Libya?

ROMANS: Yes, I'm talking about Yemen.

KARADSHEH: I think what we'll be seeing, this could escalate in Yemen and other countries have been used, spread, not many people have heard of this homemade movie before. They had not seen this video. But since the reports and the video of the incident in Cairo and the protests there, this is leading to some sort of domino effect, a chain reaction. We're seeing more protests in Arab capitals, slowly. This could pick up by tomorrow, Christine. Tomorrow is Friday. That is a usual day of protest, following Friday prayers in the Arab world.

So, if this does gain momentum, if we do see a reaction by other Arab and some countries, you could potentially see more escalation in this tomorrow.

ROMANS: Yes, that's what I was worried about. All right. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much.

So, following two things. You've got people still outside the embassy in Cairo. The pictures you're looking at right now, that's in Yemen, in Sana'a, where it is -- you know, just lunch time there. That's, you know, a very angry crowd descending on the U.S. embassy there -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? Let's head over to Cairo. The fallout now and the new fury on the streets of Cairo. Riot police clashing with protesters in Egypt? They're trading tear gas with rocks and Molotov cocktails right outside the U.S. embassy. You are looking at live pictures right now.

CNN's Ian Lee is in Cairo.

Ian, can you walk us through exactly what is happening right now?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you can look over my shoulder right over here, what you're going to see is you're going to see a couple hundred protesters still battling it out with police. You're going to see tear gas flying through the air. You're going to see police vehicles charging protesters, trying to disperse them.

But really what we're seeing is a stalemate between the police and protesters, the protesters don't seem to be giving up. And this has been an ongoing battle for over eight hours now. The police have cordoned off and pushed the protesters further away from the embassy.

I also want to point out another thing, if you can possibly see, is Tahrir Square right now is full of traffic. If I look further to my right, you have a normal day in Cairo.

And it just shows, you know, these protesters that you see, the 200 or so really don't have the support of the entire city or the country because you're not seeing people come out and join them. You're seeing people go along with their daily lives.

And these protesters, they are different than the ones we saw the night of September 11th, the night where the U.S. embassy was breached and they tore down the flag. It's a completely different crowd. That night, we saw Islamists, we saw ultraconservatives, also some young youth. But this crowd out here, these protesters have more or less disenfranchised youth.

And this is the similar kind of scene that we've seen over the past year and a half since the revolution. These are the hardcore protesters, if you will, the ones that we constantly that are battling the police.

SAMBOLIN: Ian, you make a really good point because Tahrir Square is normally the place you'd see people congregate en masse. However, when you look at the protests that are just happening this morning at the U.S. embassy in Yemen, you have to wonder whether the situation is escalating.

LEE: Well, that's a good point, because what we're hearing also, there are massive calls for massive demonstrations on Friday. The Muslim Brotherhood, the base of President Mohamed Morsi, they are calling for mass demonstrations on Friday. So, this really is somewhat, maybe the lull before tomorrow, Friday, when we see what we're planning on seeing, a lot larger demonstrations coming out against this film that protesters say insult Prophet Muhammad.

SAMBOLIN: Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi just wrapped up a press conference addressing the incidents in Egypt and Libya, publicly for the very first time. What did he say?

LEE: Well, this was an interesting statement by President Mohamed Morsi. Yesterday, he released a statement on his Facebook page condemning the film. But when he mentioned the breaching of the U.S. embassy, he said it was Egypt's responsibility to protect diplomatic missions. This is an obvious thing. Every country is responsible for protecting diplomatic missions. He did not condemn these protesters for breaching the embassy.

But in this new video, President Mohamed Morsi comes out strongly against those who breach the embassy. He said these are not people that represent Egyptians. He says these are not people who represent Muslims. He said that Egypt will secure every embassy in Egypt. He says the security forces will secure it.

But that's to be seen. We've seen over the last year many embassies being breached in Egypt. Police have yet to control a mob from entering the embassy. So, this is the first real test to see if he can make good on that promise that he will finally protect the embassies.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people watching his reaction and his actions. Ian Lee, live in Cairo for us, we'll check back in with you -- thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right. Just to bring you up to speed, we're following breaking news out of Yemen, Sana'a. The U.S. embassy facility there where there hundreds of people, quite frankly of people, of men, here after lunch time in Yemen who are protesting in front of the U.S. embassy there. And some of them actually when you look at the pictures are scaling the walls, the front gate actually, the gatehouse of that embassy.

We've got everybody on staff here, Elise Labott at the State Department, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, who have been at this facility, who can give us a little bit more perspective. We're going to be right back with more breaking news after a quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: Again this morning, we begin with breaking news. There are protesters at the U.S. embassy in Yemen at this hour. You are taking a look at live pictures there. There are men in particular, as you're seeing there. They're scaling the gates. They have not made it to the other side. We understand, Yemeni police are firing shots into the air, attempting to end this in a peaceful manner, to disperse all of the crowds there.

You see there are hundreds of protesters outside. So far, what we have heard is that everything has been peaceful. We are going to go to a reporter who is live on the ground there, Hakim Almasmari. He is Sana'a. What can you tell us?

ALMASMARI (via telephone): These protests are not exactly what we expected. We expected them to be even more violent, but these protesters are unarmed. They wanted to express their views and their anger. That is what we can see from the pictures, that they were climbing the embassy doors, and they'd stopping there and chanted.

They're going into the embassy or cause any chaos there. And according to the numerous eyewitnesses, there were no one armed at the protest. That is why security forces didn't shoot directly at the protesters, because they knew that they were young and unarmed unlike the situation in Libya.

We talked to the interior ministry, and they informed us any armed gunmen or any armed protesters are seen, they will be stopped immediately and will be shot at. Security forces are dealing with this in a very wise manner to ensure that it does not escalate. Any blood that drops will only make it worse for Yemen and the U.S. as well.

SAMBOLIN: Hakim, we are watching right now on the video that there are men that seem to be scaling a gate. Are you telling us that nobody has made it to the other side?

ALMASMARI: No. According to the interior ministry, no one has made it inside. And those who are inside, there are security forces right inside the embassy gate. So, all those who are climbing, as you can see in the pictures, all of them are unarmed and not intent to do anything crazy like what we saw in Libya.

Again, this could escalate, but according to the interior ministry, none of those protesters are armed. And if anyone is seem armed, they will be shot at directly.

SAMBOLIN: So, talk to me about what they're chanting, what they're saying, why are they there?

ALMASMARI: They angry at the movie. The homemade movie that was made against Prophet Muhammad. They believed that this was something that should not have happened, and the U.S. should have fought it or at least condemned it. This is not against the U.S. foreign policy in Yemen. If it was so, this protest would have been placed months back where the U.S. drone were escalating.

Today, it is only about the movie and the anger to express. They're angry. They are not happy with this. They are chanting that chant saying that only Muhammad. They did not want this to be a culture. They feel this is an obligation to do to express their views. But again, we do expect this to diffuse in the next hour or so.

SAMBOLIN: That's a lot of protesters. Do you know approximately how many Yemeni police are there as well?

ALMASMARI: Outside the embassy, there are around thousand security forces. (INAUDIBLE) inside the embassy, according to officials, many of the security forces were deployed and reinforced inside the embassy, entering through the rear gate. So, it's well guarded. It's well guarded.

We did not expect any situation that would get out of hand. Again, over 1,000 security forces -- you know, the embassy itself, many of them were also reinforced inside the embassy to ensure that any protesters entered, they could be arrested and taken out.

SAMBOLIN: And talk to me about the number of protesters that are outside of the embassy right now.

ALMASMARI: It's started at 100. It's reached 2,000 to 3,000 protesters right now. We do expect this protest to escalate even tomorrow if it gets violent today. If these protests come out with any blood dripping, it should be a one-day thing and come to an end. However, security forces know that if this escalates and it gets higher, this protest could escalate on a daily basis and in a country like Yemen which (INAUDIBLE), that does not sound good.

SAMBOLIN: We were talking to one of our correspondents at the Pentagon just a little while ago, and she said that it's customary for men to walk around carrying weaponry. And so, is there a concern here that that group, that contingency will join the crowd?

ALMASMARI: There is a possibility. But again, there are over a thousand security forces right now surrounding the U.S. embassy and around the embassy. They are watching for any gunmen, whether from protesters, anyone who is seen with the weapon and walking here at the embassy will be shot at directly.

That is what we were told by interior minister officials, and that is the order, that any who is armed and going toward the embassy will be immediately shot at.

SAMBOLIN: And, as we're watching the situation that's also unfolding in Libya, the concern is that this kind of escalation will continue to happen at U.S. embassies.

ALMASMARI: In Yemen, I'll be honest with you, if this gets violent today, this could happen again and again over the next week or so. But from where we see it, this is only a one-day thing. It would not be violent. And again, in the next hour or so, we do expect this to diffuse and come to an end if nothing gets violent. SAMBOLIN: All right. If you could just standby, we're going to continue to check in with you. We appreciate your time this morning.

ROMANS: Now, let's go to Washington where Elise Labott, our foreign affairs reporter is standing by, and she's been following, of course, the story. And Elise, you know the embassy of Yemen in Washington, D.C. has told us that, indeed, there has been a breach at the American facility in Sana'a. But they say now, Elise, they have -- the Yemeni government says it has things under control. What can you tell us?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. We just got a statement just moments ago from the Yemeni embassy in Washington, first of all, condemning any attacks on U.S. facilities or any diplomatic facilities. Let me read a little bit of it to you.

Given recent -- it says that "Unfortunately, angry protesters have flooded the perimeter of the U.S. embassy in Sana'a, Yemen and breached the embassy's walls. Security services have quickly restored order to the embassy's complex. Fortunately, no causalities were reported from this chaotic incident."

And it goes on to say that the government of Yemen will honor its diplomatic obligations to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and facilities and all responsibilities of the host government. This is not Libya or Egypt right now, Christine, where you have this fragile government that security forces, there's a little bit of a security vacuum.

I think even though there's been a problem, and I'm sure we're going to talk about it throughout the day with al Qaeda and some militants in the country. This is certainly seen by the United States as a country that has the security situation pretty much in hand. And I think, right now, the United States feels that the Yemenis will be able to protect them.

And obviously, the U.S. has been reaching out throughout the last 48 hours trying to talk to all of its diplomatic facilities, but particularly, in these type of countries where there's a lot of militant activity to make sure that those diplomatic personnels are secure and those facilities are secure.

ROMANS: And clearly, in these countries, they're reviewing security procedures, the security at the facilities, and they know that after noontime prayers, that when we have seen protests both peaceful and not peaceful over the past, you know, year and a half. This has been the time of day when this has often flared up.

LABOTT: That's right. And in fact, the U.S. embassy in Yemen sent out a statement earlier this morning. Before the statement came out, kind of what they called warden's message to American citizens saying that we're going to close our American citizens services office for the day, urging American citizens to stay away from the embassy.

They knew these protests were coming. I mean, I think they've been shocked in general over what's happened in the last 48 hours. But now, they're expecting a lot more of it. And so, they're reaching out to American citizens across these countries to say, listen, we know it's a volatile situation. Stay home. If you have an emergency, call us, and we'll try to help you.

ROMANS: Elise, tell us what your sources are saying inside the State Department. I mean, clearly, they're mourning the loss of one of their colleagues, the ambassador to Libya. So, they're still dealing with that, but also, they're girding for what could be more protests throughout the region. Tell me a little about what your sources are telling you about the preparations they're making there.

LABOTT: Well, I think yesterday, everybody was in shock, but at the same time, it was kind of good that they were able to work throughout all of this, because they really just need to deal with the task at hand. I think the U.S. has been kind of shocked in the fact that how this Arab spring has taken this ugly turn, I think, in their view.

The U.S. tried to help these countries, certainly helped overthrew the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, for instance, urged Hose Mubarak to step down, got rid of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. And now, seeing this anti-American protests, I think, sources yesterday told me that they felt that this movie that we've been talking about, this so-called homemade American movie, was a handy excuse.


LABOTT: Secretary Clinton said yesterday that she was really shocked at this anti-American sentiment. So, I think that they're now trying to see how -- there's going to be a lot of what you call public diplomacy right now. There was a lot of this after 9/11.

And I think they really need to up the ante here in terms of how can we reach out to these publics around the world to say America is your friend. We have your best interest in heart. Look at what we've done for you over the past year. You have new leaders. You have new future. We want to help you build this country.

In Yemen, for instance, there's so much economic turmoil. The country has terrible economic situation. The U.S. is helping with development. The U.S. is helping with so many programs like I list to you (ph), Christine. And it's really dumbfounded.

ROMANS: But yet, one crazy low resolution, unintelligible video posted on Facebook could undo American foreign policy. I mean, the social media helped the Arab spring, and now, it's hurting the moments after the, you know, the Arab autumn, I guess. So, it's fascinating. We'll talk about that. We'll have you back. Stick around, Elise, because we're following all of these developments and will have you back. I want you to keep monitoring, of course. Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: I think it kind of magnifies all of the cultural differences as well, right?


SAMBOLIN: Barbara Starr is standing by live at the Pentagon. And we just heard, Barbara, are you there?

STARR (off camera): Yes, ma'am.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, we just heard right now, I can't see you right now. So, I was wondering if you were with us, but we just heard right now from Elise Labott that, you know, the embassy in Yemen said that they have situation under control there. And I know that you have been there.

So, I want to show some pictures again and talk a little bit about that, and you know, the fact that they have breached the area and what does that mean? And how far is it before those protesters could actually reach anyone in particular?

STARR: Well, this is the -- pictures we've been showing have been the main gate on that commercial street in Sana'a in the Yemeni capital. This is a fortified area where many security forces control the street, and the goal is for them to not let the protesters get to this point. We are seeing them at that main gate. I think that, probably, it may not be a great idea to talk about the specifics, you know, of how many feet back, how far --

SAMBOLIN: That it's a distance, right?

STARR: Yes. I mean, it's walking distance. Let's put it that way.


STARR: It's not miles. It's a short walking distance. There are layers of security inside there. We heard reports earlier. Many forces are inside themselves, helping to protect the area. But this -- everything within the compound is fortified and has layers of security around it. I think that there's an important point to make here about the social media element that you brought up.

Regardless of the many security forces ability to control this, this is video that will now be moving on social media and networks around the world and throughout the Arab world. There will be these pictures yet again of protesters being able to scale a gate with the U.S. government emblem at the top of that gate, protesters getting to this point.

So, it's going to be seen. This is part of the concern. As these pictures are seen around the world, what will be the reaction in other countries? Will it spark other protest? Will this give people who want to cause trouble that momentum to get involved in protest, perhaps, against U.S. installations?

These things have a very -- have a real way of growing through the social media. So, that's going to be part of the concern. It's not just controlling what is happening right now. On the streets of Yemen, it's what could be coming next.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And there's been a lot of criticism about the lack of security at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. So, what is the United States -- I know the host country is responsible for security there, but how is the United States responding to assists and increase security for Americans at the U.S. embassies and in those countries?

STARR: Right. Well, you know, the President already ordered increased security. Now, the State Department, Pentagon, National Security Council, all the elements of the U.S. government looking at security around the world, the U.S. installations looking at what else needs to be done and certainly going back to these host countries and saying it is your responsibility to maintain security out on the street.

As we talked about here in Washington, D.C., you know, dozens and dozens of countries have their embassies across Washington. And here on the streets of Washington, it is the responsibility of local law enforcement, uniform secret service, federal law enforcement, FBI, they maintain security when there is a threat of any potential violent protests.

U.S. law enforcement is out on the streets here in Washington protecting embassies around the clock. The U.S. wants to make sure that is returned around the world.

SAMBOLIN: And, meantime in Cairo, President Mohamed Morsi finally made an address. What did he say?

STARR: You know, this is something that the U.S. had been waiting for --


STARR: -- to see him step out on this. I do not have the text of what he came out and said. But it was the symbol of they wanted to see him talk about this. It was important, the U.S. felt, to see the new Egyptian leader put his face, his name, and his words to what his views were about what happened.

SAMBOLIN: Barbara, you know what, we have a statement here from President Mohamed Morsi that I'd like to read. "The presidency condemns in the strongest terms the attempt of a group to insult the place of the messenger, the Prophet Muhammad and condemns the people who have produced the radical work."

That was on the Facebook page, I believe. "The Egyptian people, both Muslims and Christians, refuse such insults on sanctities." But that was the original statement that was released on Facebook. A lot of people are hoping that the President steps up now and issues a condemnation for what has happened.

STARR: Yes. That's right. They want to see his name -- the U.S., certainly, by all accounts, wants to see him put his name and face to this. It is going to be very important for the Egyptian leader, President Morsi to come out and be willing to put his name and face to this. You know, I don't think anyone, at this moment, supports this alleged movie, if you will.

Everyone agrees this is terribly problematic. But, the question for the Egyptian leader is to condemn the violence again the U.S. embassy and demonstrate that Egyptian security forces are willing. They're able and will protect U.S. diplomatic installations.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us. Thank you very much. We appreciate your time this morning. Stand by, because we will be checking back in with you.

In the meantime, we're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROMANS: Breaking news this morning in Sana'a. This is the U.S. facility, the U.S. embassy in Yemen, in Yemen's capital. You can see tape here of men scaling the outer walls of the gatehouse of the U.S. embassy facility. The Yemeni government confirming that there's been a breach there, but now, the situation, they say, is under control.

We know that security forces, Yemeni security forces, fired shots into the air to try dispersed this crowd. But we're told from our reporters and other reporters in the region that they're being quite careful about not inciting this crowd any further. Again, these are taped pictures. We're told now by the Yemeni government that they do have things under control.

As you know, security forces are on high alert around the region after those big, big protests yesterday that resulted, quite frankly, in the death, the assassination of the American ambassador to Libya, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And let's head over now to Cairo. We have some live pictures there outside the U.S. embassy as well. And riot police are clashing with protesters there. They're trading tear gas with rocks and Molotov cocktails right outside the U.S. embassy. Of course, you know that this all started yesterday.

It was quite an intense situation there, burning of the flag, a lot of protesters. We talked to a reporter who's on the ground there, Ian Lee, and he said the situation is very different today than it was yesterday. Far more peaceful and far calmer. And he made a really interesting point that it has not moved into Tahrir Square, which is normally where you see big protests happening.

It's not to say that we know what's going to happen, whether this will be incited further. We were just talking to Barbara Starr a little while ago, because Mohamed Morsi, President Mohamed Morsi did address. He had a press conference. And we were talking about what did he say. Well, here is what he said.

"Let me condemn with the most clear terms the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic installation that caused the deaths of four people in Benghazi namely the American ambassador. There can be no justification for violence and loss of innocent lives. We call on the Libyan authorities to take all necessary measure to ensure such events do not reoccur and, of course, to protect the diplomatic missions."

So, he did come out with a condemnation. A lot of Americans were hoping to hear something and maybe a little bit more about what happened there in Egypt, in Cairo, in particular, at the U.S. embassy there. And you know, perhaps even the lack of security there when this initially started.

ROMANS: We should point out also, this is just after noontime prayers. And you recall during Arab spring, it was this time of day when men would gather in the street and this is when rumors and outrage and anger against their own governments would often percolate.

Now, that rumor, that outrage, that anger seems to be percolating against the United States. So, again, we'll continue to follow all of this. We're watching Benghazi, Libya. We're, of course, watching Cairo. And we're watching the latest, which is in Yemen where we're told that situation is under control.

CNN has learned that U.S. officials suspect the attack that killed America's ambassador to Libya was planned in advance. At first, it was believed this killing of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was carried out by angry mobs, protesting an anti-Islam home video. But U.S. officials believe the attackers may have used those protesters as a diversion for an assassination.

SAMBOLIN: The number of West Nile cases has jumped 35 percent. This is just in the past week. Federal health officials say the worst of the mosquito-borne epidemic may be over. This year's outbreak of West Nile virus is the deadliest ever on record. More than 2,600 cases have been reported to the CDC this year, and that includes 118 deaths.

ROMANS: For the first time since being tasked to be Mitt Romney's running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan will be back on Capitol Hill today. He'll be voting on a six-month spending bill that funds the federal government through March at a cost of just over a trillion dollars. This measure was negotiated by both parties this summer and it is expected to pass.

SAMBOLIN: Former NFL star, Chad Johnson, faces up to a year in jail after being formally charged with domestic battery in Florida. Johnson was arrested last month after his wife of just over a month accused him of headbutting her during an argument. The Miami Dolphins cut Johnson he day after the arrest.

ROMANS: New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on the sale of super sized sugary drinks may be approved today. The city's board of health is scheduled to vote on this plan. It calls for a 16-ounce limit on sodas and other sugary beverages sold at restaurants, delis, even movie theaters. If approved, it will take effect in March.

SAMBOLIN: Are you lining up yet? Preorder start tomorrow on the new iPhone 5. Are you excited?


ROMANS: I don't know. I'm kind of Apple'd out.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Apple is lifting the curtain on a new phone or it listed (ph) yesterday. It's gotten taller. It's lost some weight as well. It has a larger four-inch screen, a thinner design and will be able to run and super fast 4G LDE wireless networks. There's new mapping with turn-by-turn directions for you.

Siri, apparently, is a little smarter and it also has a new connector. So, all your accessories have officially been declared obsolete. There will be an adapter available. It's going to cost you 30 bucks.

ROMANS: We're not getting too far from the breaking news in Yemen, of course, though. Right now, hundreds of protesters are outside the U.S. embassy in Sana'a. We've got a live report from the region after a very quick break. Stay with us.