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Egyptian protesters, police continue to clash near U.S. Embassy

September 13, 2012 |  7:59 am

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

CAIRO -- As Egypt's security forces fired tear gas Thursday to disperse rock-throwing crowds near the U.S. Embassy here, President Mohamed Morsi condemned attacks on American missions in his country and Libya.

Two days after protesters scaled the embassy's walls to take down the U.S. flag, hundreds of people clashed with security forces in downtown Cairo. As the scuffles have continued throughout the day, about 70 people have been injured, among them members of security forces, according to the state-run news agency.

[Updated 2:01 p.m. Sept. 13: The state news agency later reported that at least 224 people had been injured. The state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported 24 arrests so far in the ongoing clashes.]

The protests purportedly were initially sparked by anger over a video produced in the United States that many Muslims deem insulting to the prophet Muhammad and Islam.

PHOTOS: Protesters haul down flag at U.S. Embassy in Cairo

On Thursday, live video from Cairo showed hundreds of protesters chanting as they charged at security forces on the outskirts of the embassy: "With our soul, our blood, we’ll sacrifice ourselves for you, prophet." 

But unlike earlier in the week, the protesters clashing with security forces on Thursday were primarily street youths and so-called soccer hooligans with no clear political affiliation.

Security forces managed to push the protesters away toward the outskirts of Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 18-day uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak early last year.

PHOTOS: Protesters swarm U.S. Embassy in Yemen

Despite the ongoing violence, the Muslim Brotherhood continued to call for peaceful protests across Egypt on Friday to denounce the film.

In Yemen, meanwhile, protesters were seen in live video aired on the Al Jazeera news channel clashing with security forces in front of the U.S. Embassy in the heart of the Sana, the capital. The Arabic news channel reported that prior to the clashes, protesters also tried to storm the mission.

Speaking from Brussels on Thursday, Morsi first slammed the controversial video stirring the unrest, then condemned the attacks against the American missions in Egypt and Libya. The latter assault in the city of Benghazi took the life of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three embassy staff members.

"I speak on behalf of the Egyptian people when I say defaming prophet Muhammad is unacceptable," Morsi said in a televised speech that was recorded in Brussels, where he was seeking aid from the European Commission.

He then added: "We strongly condemn and reject the killing of the American ambassador in Libya. The prophet taught us to respect all human life."

Morsi also reiterated that his country is responsible for "protecting all embassies, diplomatic missions, tourists and foreigners living on its soil."

Since Tuesday's attacks on the U.S. missions in Cairo and Benghazi, Egyptian liberals and observers around the world have criticized Morsi for his delayed remarks on the death of the Americans in Libya as well as the breaching of the U.S. Embassy's walls in Cairo.

On Wednesday, President Obama discussed the United States' strategic relationship with Egypt in a different tone than in the past.

"I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy," Obama said in reference to the Egyptian government during an interview with Telemundo, part of which aired during MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Obama stressed that the Egyptian government's response to the attack on the embassy in Cairo would define future ties.

The comment suggested a strategic shift in Egyptian-American relations. For more than three decades, the U.S. maintained close relations with Mubarak's regime, and before that worked with the government of President Anwar Sadat to reach the 1979 Camp David peace agreement with Israel.

The American mission has had a strong presence in Cairo over the past 30 years. The U.S. government provides Egypt's military with more than $1 billion in aid each year. Over the past 37 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has provided Egypt with over $28 billion in economic aid.

ALSO:

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Slain Libyan ambassador described as "unflappable" by his brother

Islamophobia as free speech -- a notion that escapes many Muslims

-- Reem Abdellatif

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