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September 19, 2012

Militants claim Afghan attack is revenge for anti-Islam film

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Islamic militants sought yesterday to capitalize on anger over an anti-Islam video that was produced in the United States, saying a suicide bombing that killed 12 people in Afghanistan was revenge for the film and calling for attacks on U.S. diplomats and facilities in North Africa.

The attempt by extremists across the region to harness Muslim fury over a film that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad posed new concern for the United States, whose embassies and consulates have been targeted, and in some cases breached, during riots and protests over the past week.

At the same time, Western leaders welcomed statements by Middle East governments that condemned the violence against diplomatic facilities on their soil, even as they expressed anger over the video. Some of those governments replaced autocratic regimes in popular uprisings that swept the region, allowing for greater leniency toward protest.

At least 28 people have died in violence linked to the film in seven countries, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The toll also includes 12 protesters killed in riots over the film last week.

Some officials in Libya have said the attack on the consulate was planned in advance by militants. However, the White House said yesterday the assault appeared to have been sparked by anger over the film, though the investigation continues.

The crisis has become a major foreign policy challenge for Washington in the final weeks of a presidential election campaign that has largely focused on economic challenges. The uproar over the video, "Innocence of Muslims," which was made by an Egyptian-born American citizen and posted on YouTube, reflects seemingly intractable tension between Western principles of free speech and Islamic beliefs that brook no insult directed at the prophet.

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