- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2012

Libyan security officials Thursday said they have arrested four men suspected of involvement in the attack that killed a U.S. ambassador this week, and referred to the incident as an organized assault by militants who carried out carefully timed raids on both the diplomatic compound and a safe house where evacuated U.S. personnel were waiting to be rescued.

With the FBI now assisting in the investigation, news of the arrests came as animosity toward the United States widened across the Middle East. In a rowdy protest Thursday in Yemen, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the U.S. Embassy chanting: “Death to America.”

There were also reports of a brief but intense uprising in Iran, where the same chant could be heard from hundreds of demonstrators attempting to lay siege to the Embassy of Switzerland, which oversees U.S. interests in the absence of formal American diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic.

In Washington, the Obama administration held firm to the position that the week’s violence — which has also seen the tearing down of the American flag at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo — was triggered by unbridled anger among Mideast Muslims toward a film produced in the United States that derides Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Libyan officials said the attack in their country, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on Tuesday night, was seemingly timed to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

But U.S. officials cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that the incidents in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iran are connected by anything more than theme, and stressed that while an investigation is under way, no clear evidence has emerged of a terrorist plot.

Questions of a wider plot

With specific regard to Libya, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that U.S. officials “are very cautious about drawing any conclusions with regard to who the perpetrators were, what their motivations were, whether it was premeditated, whether they had any external contacts, whether there was any link until we have a chance to investigate.”

She said U.S. officials monitoring social media in the Middle East believe the spark to all of the demonstrations has come from anger a toward the independent film titled “Innocence of Muslims” — Arabic-dubbed clips of which recently appeared on the social media site YouTube.

News of the clips created a firestorm of public unrest in Egypt at the start of this week when a hard-line Islamic television station known as Al Nas began featuring reports and commentary about the insulting nature of the clips.

U.S. officials have lauded the emergence of an independent Egyptian media during aftermath of the revolution that last year ousted the nation’s longtime authoritarian leader. But the presence of such hard-line religious media is now adding yet another layer of complexity to the conduct of American diplomacy in Egypt.

While the Obama administration has condemned in the harshest terms the recent outbursts toward the United States, it has also toed a careful line in an attempt to ease anger toward the “Innocence of Muslims” film. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for instance, added fresh attention to the film Thursday, with an assertion that, “to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible.”

“It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage,” Mrs. Clinton said.

She added, “There is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence.

“We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms, and we greatly appreciate that many Muslims in the United States and around the world have spoken out on this issue,” Mrs. Clinton said.

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