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Libya announces arrests as US embassy demos spread

Libya has arrested people in the wake of a deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Anti-US protests, apparently sparked by a film insulting Islam, have meanwhile spread across the Middle East and North Africa.

Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur told the AFP news agency, among others, that his security forces had made a "big advance" in their investigations into a deadly attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi late on Tuesday.

"We have some names and some photographs," he said. "Arrests have been made and more are under way as we speak."

This Monday, April 11, 2011 file photo shows US envoy Chris Stevens (AP)

US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was killed in Benghazi

Four US officials were killed in the attack on the consulate in the major eastern city, which was a key rebel stronghold during last year's uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.

The US State Department named the other two victims of the attack overnight Thursday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said two former Navy SEALS providing security at the consulate, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, also died.

The State Department had already announced that US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and Sean Smith, an information management officer, were killed at the consulate. Stevens was the fist US ambassador to be killed since 1979.

Protests continue, more expected

In Cairo, where the first anti-US protests took place, people besieged the US embassy for a third consecutive day on Thursday, with reports of some demonstrators throwing stones at the building.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) makes a statement about the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Rose Garden at the White House September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Clinton (l) said the film was "disgusting and reprehensible"

Police in the Yemeni capital Sanaa used live ammunition and tear gas to suppress a crowd trying to storm a US embassy there; four people were killed and several more injured.

Further protests were reported in various countries and regions, including Bangladesh, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Sudan, Tunisia and the Gaza Strip. US officials confirmed that extra security steps had been taken in several countries, seeking to avoid more problems after Friday prayers.

The anti-US backlash appears to have been triggered, at least in part, by a privately-made film denigrating Islam - a part of which was translated into Arabic and posted on Youtube.

"Let me state very clearly – and I hope it is obvious – that the United States had absolutely nothing to do with this video," Hillary Clinton said in Washington on Thursday. "To us, 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."

Clinton said she knew it was hard for some people to understand why the US did not stop people from producing such films, but said this would go against freedom of speech. Saying such censorship would be "virtually impossible" in the Internet age anyway, Clinton said the US authorities "do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be."

The film, called "Innocence of Muslims," portrays the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, homosexual and child abuser. Putting the negative imagery to one side, even the pictorial portrayal of Muhammad is forbidden in Islamic dogma. The person behind the film used a pseudonym and is in hiding.

msh/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)