Anti-US protests against an American-produced film which allegedly insults the Prophet Mohammed, took a violent turn in the Middle East as the US Embassy in Cairo was attacked and its consulate at Benghazi in Libya was set on fire reportedly killing one American consular official.
US officials were however were reluctant to establish any link between the two incidents on Tuesday in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, and Benghazi, the Libyan city. "We cannot confirm any connection between these incidents," a senior State Department official said in response to questions linking the two incidents.
Multiple American media outlets said that one US official had been killed in the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, which was set on fire by militant groups. This was notified to the US by the Libyan Government, CNN reported. But there was no independent confirmation of this by US officials.
However, the State Department confirmed the attack. "We can confirm that our office in Benghazi, Libya has been attacked by a group of militants," the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, said.
"We are working with the Libyans now to secure the compound. We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission," Nuland said.
Members of a radical Islamist group had been protesting at the consulate, CNN reported. The protest in Libya was against a film produced in the US, which was also the cause of angry protestors storming the American Embassy in Cairo, who then tore down the American flag and replaced it with a black one.
"The black flag, which hangs atop a ladder inside the compound, is adorned with white characters that read, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger," an emblem often used in al Qaeda propaganda," CNN reported.
The State Department later said that the demonstrators now have been removed from the Embassy compound.
"In Cairo, we can confirm that Egyptian police have now removed the demonstrators who had entered our Embassy grounds earlier today," Nuland said.
CNN reported from Egypt that several individuals claimed responsibility for organizing the demonstrations, including Salafist leader Wesam Abdel-Wareth, who is president of Egypt's conservative Hekma television channel.