BEIRUT: The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon voiced concern Monday over the threat of demonstrations against a film insulting the Prophet Mohammad and warned that protesters could target U.S. officials and private interests.
“The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon is concerned about the continued threat of demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. interests in Lebanon,” the mission said in a statement, a day after Hezbollah announced a series of protests this week against the movie “Innocence of Muslims.”
In response to the controversial film that originated in the U.S. several protests erupted last week against U.S. diplomatic missions in several Arab countries.
On Sept.12, a day following the beginning of protests against the film, a U.S. envoy and three other staff members were killed when the U.S. Consulate in Libya was attacked. The U.S. says the assault began with a “spontaneous” protest over the video.
Protests over the film have also taken place in Lebanon.
On Sunday, a group of protesters burned American and Israeli flags in Tripoli, north Lebanon.
One protester was also killed and over 27 others were injured Friday when stone-throwing demonstrators protesting the film clashed with authorities. The protesters also set fire to U.S. food chains KFC and Hardee’s.
The U.S. Embassy in Awkar, north of Beirut, has bolstered its security measures. Members of an elite force were seen guarding the road leading to the U.S. mission Monday.
On Sunday, the Lebanese Army and police boosted their numbers at several points along the road leading to the embassy, deploying special units from the military and Internal Security Forces, according to a Daily Star reporter on the scene.
In its warning to U.S. citizens in Lebanon Monday, the embassy also noted that “demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violent clashes.”
“U.S. citizens are also reminded that demonstrations and riots can occur with little or no warning,” it added.
It asked citizens to avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if within the vicinity of a protest.
“Protesters may target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, and places of worship, schools, public areas, and other tourist destinations where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers,” the embassy said.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called Monday for a series of protests starting with a demonstration in Beirut’s southern suburbs at 5 p.m. against the film which he described as “very dangerous and unprecedented.”
In a speech televised on Al-Manar television, Nasrallah also accused the White House of seeking to sow strife between Christians and Muslims.
Other protests will take place this week in the coastal city of Sidon, Bint Jbeil in the south as well as Baalbek and the Hermel in the east.