A wave of furious anti-Western protests against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad has abated, but US policy in the Muslim world remained overshadowed by 13 minutes of amateurish video on the Internet.
While the protests intensified over the video, YouTube blocked access to the clip in Libya and Egypt. YouTube cited “the very sensitive situations” in those two countries. Later YouTube also blocked access to the video in India and Indonesia after their governments told Youtube the video broke their laws.
The controversy underscores how some Internet firms have been thrust into debates over the limits of free speech. In its Friday statement, YouTube said that outside of Libya, Egypt, India and Indonesia, the video will remain on its website.
“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions,” the YouTube statement said.
YouTube's community guidelines say the company encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But YouTube says it does not permit hate speech.
Washington ordered family members and non-essential staff to leave the US Embassy in Khartoum, which was attacked on Friday, after Sudan turned down its request to send Marines to bolster security.
In addition, it pulled non-essential personnel out of its embassy in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, also attacked on Friday, and urged American citizens to leave the city.
Marine platoons have been sent to US missions in Yemen and Libya since the unrest erupted.
Elsewhere, riot police stormed into Cairo's Tahrir Square and rounded up hundreds of people after four days of clashes and demands from protesters for the US ambassador to be expelled.
Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority denounced the attacks on diplomats and embassies across the Middle East as un-Islamic.
But the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda applauded the killings of US diplomats in Libya and urged Muslims to kill more, calling the video posted on the Internet another chapter in the “crusader wars” against Islam.
Four soldiers fighting with the NATO-led alliance were killed in another suspected “insider” attack in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, the coalition said, bringing the total number of deaths this weekend caused by Afghans turning on their allies to six. Four NATO-led troops were found dead and two wounded when a nearby response team arrived at the scene from a nearby checkpoint, a spokesman for the coalition said. Sunday's shooting took place in Zabol, a province where US forces are based, according to a local official, who said all four soldiers killed were American.
Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of Australia's largest city, some throwing rocks and bottles in clashes with police. Some carried placards reading “Behead all those who insult the Prophet.”
About 80 militants were arrested in Paris while trying to demonstrate outside the US Embassy near the Champs Elysees, French police sources said.
Saturday was, however, relatively calm after at least nine deaths in the Muslim world on Friday during protests and attacks on American and other Western embassies.
US President Barack Obama, leading a ceremony on Friday to honor the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans who died in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, vowed to “stand fast” against the violence.
“The United States will never retreat from the world,” he said. The Pentagon rushed to bolster security at missions abroad.
The US State Department on Saturday also urged American citizens to avoid Sudan's restive Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan regions.
Libyan authorities said they had identified 50 people who were involved in the attack in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens died.
In an interview aired on NBC's “Nightly News,” Libyan President Mohammed Magarief was quoted as saying that foreigners along with Libyans were involved in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. He added there were 10 suspects in custody.
Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, denounced the attacks while urging governments and international bodies to criminalize insults against prophets.
He described the short film as “miserable” and “criminal,” but said attacks on the innocent and on diplomats were “a distortion of the Islamic religion and are not accepted by God.”
US officials have said authorities are not investigating the film project itself, and that even if it was inflammatory or led to violence, simply producing it cannot be considered a crime in the United States, which has strong free speech laws.
A statement posted on a website used by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called on Muslims to “follow the example of Omar al-Mukhtar's descendants [Libyans], who killed the American ambassador.”
“Let the step of kicking out the embassies be a step towards liberating Muslim countries from the American hegemony,” the group said.
Hundreds of mourners in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, attended the funeral on Saturday of a young protester shot to death when riot police battled a crowd attacking the US Embassy on Thursday.