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Anti-Muslim film: Patrols stepped up at Coptic Christian churches

September 14, 2012 |  7:17 am

Local law enforcement authorities are stepping up patrols around Coptic Christian houses of worship to deter those who might target them because the producer of an anti-Muslim movie that sparked unrest in the Middle East has ties to the religion.

In Los Angeles, law enforcement sources say authorities are focused on learning how the "Innocence of Muslims'" movie relates to the violence, including the killing this week of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

They also want to make sure those connected to the production are aware of possible dangers posed by their association, sources said.

TIMELINE: 'Innocence of Muslims' unrest

Two Egyptian immigrants from Southern California became unlikely collaborators in the movie. Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, the president of the Duarte-based charity Media for Christ, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon from Cerritos, emerged Thursday as forces behind "Innocence of Muslims."

An online trailer for the low-budget film incited violence in recent days across the Arab world. 

Media for Christ, whose stated mission is to "glow Jesus' light" to the world, obtained permits to shoot the movie in August 2011, and Nakoula provided his home as a set and paid the actors, according to government officials and those involved in the production.

In a sign of the tensions the movie has sparked, Los Angeles County officials said the U.S. State Department had asked them not to release copies of the film permits containing information about who organized the shoot.

PHOTOS: Protesters attack U.S. embassies, consulate

Obama administration officials also flagged the trailer to YouTube and asked the company to review whether it violated the website's terms of service. Both men appeared to have gone into hiding Thursday.

As the furor over the film grew, they and their associates have distanced themselves from the production. Nakoula told the Associated Press he was a logistics manager on the movie, not the director. He told a Coptic bishop Thursday that he had no role in it, the clergyman told The Times.

"He denied completely any involvement," said Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles.

But Duarte's deputy city manager said she had been told by sheriff's officials that the permits to shoot the movie had been issued to Media for Christ.

An actor who appeared in the movie, Tim Dax, said he was paid $75 a day in checks drawn on the bank account of Abanob Basseley Nakoula — a name linked to the Cerritos property where Nakoula Basseley Nakoula resides.

The home's distinctive front door with triangle windows in a half-circle pattern is visible in the 14-minute trailer for the movie posted on YouTube.

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-- Andrew Blankstein, Harriet Ryan and Jessica Garrison

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