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Middle East

British embassy in line of fire as anger engulfs Muslim world

Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Nigeria and Egypt among the countries witnessing violent protests against controversial US Prophet film

The wave of anti-Western fury triggered by the notorious Prophet Mohamed film appeared to be rippling across the entire Muslim world last night, as outraged protesters held demonstrations and attacked Western embassies.

In Khartoum, the British, German and US missions to Sudan were targeted, with protesters storming the German embassy. And in Lebanon, at least one demonstrator was shot dead after soldiers used live fire to quell rioting.

The German mission was attacked when up to five thousand protesters gathered in the Sudanese capital to express their outrage over the California-made film, although, aside from the general anti-Western sentiment, it is unclear why European interests were attacked. Part of the compound was torched, while some protesters clambered on to the roof and replaced Germany's colours with a black shahada flag, the banner sometimes flown by religious conservatives, which carries the Muslim declaration of faith.

Germany's Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, told reporters that nobody had been harmed during the attack, but that the Sudanese ambassador had been summoned and "unequivocally reminded of his government's duty to protect diplomatic missions"

He added that although the American film was "unspeakable", that it should not be used as an excuse for violence.

There was a second demonstration in Khartoum outside the British embassy. Early reports suggested the compound had been stormed by protesters, though the Foreign Office did not confirm whether or not the building had been breached.

Sudanese protesters who clambered over the wall of the US embassy were ejected before they got far into the compound, a US embassy spokesman said. Reports last night suggested that in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, protesters breached security at the American embassy.

Elsewhere across the Muslim world there were protests after Friday prayers, as the fallout from the film – which depicted the Prophet Mohamed as a womanising savage – looked in danger of spiralling out of control.

In Lebanon, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of Tripoli, the country's second city, shouting slogans against the US and Pope Benedict XVI, who inadvertently stepped into the maelstrom for a pre-arranged three day visit.

Tearing down banners welcoming the Pope, protesters then torched a KFC branch and police jeep, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper. A protester was then shot dead by troops who opened fire on the rally.

There was also a second day of clashes in Yemen, where one person was killed on Thursday after demonstrators stormed the US embassy.

Demonstrators carried placards reading "Today is your last day, ambassador!", but were pinned back by police firing water cannons.

Elsewhere, from Malaysia to Iraq, protests were called in all corners of the Muslim world, while in Nigeria – where the government has battled against a violent Islamic insurgency movement – security was beefed up around embassy compounds. It was reported that security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the Nigerian city of Jos.

In Cairo, protesters battled with police for a third day running. Police were forced to erect a giant wall on the main road leading towards the US embassy to protect the Downtown compound from rioting youths.

As guests peered over their balconies from the Semiramis Intercontinental, a five star hotel just 50 yards from the main battle line, protesters clambered onto the wall to lob stones and aim fireworks at the central security forces protecting the embassy.

"They have offended every Muslim in the world," said one protester, a man in his 20s who gave his name only as Hossam. "In America they have free speech. But if they use it like this, then it will lead to disaster."

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has come under fire from some Western commentators in recent days for his supposed sluggishness in condemning the violence which has erupted in relation to the anti-Islamic film.

He has since issued a plea for demonstrators to refrain from clashes, while senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Khairat el-Shater also appeared keen to burnish the group's image by sending a letter to The New York Times condemning Wednesday's breach of the US embassy compound in Cairo.

Some protesters also said there were other factors at play, such as residual hostility towards the police and American foreign policy.

In Khartoum, for example, there was speculation that the attacks were related to recent criticism from the Sudanese Foreign Ministry about right-wing protesters in Germany being allowed to carry caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed.

But there is no doubting the deep offence which many ordinary Muslims feel about any high-profile sleight against their religion.