Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen yesterday praised the killing of the United States (US) ambassador in Libya and called for more attacks to expel American embassies from Muslim nations.
The statement suggests al-Qaida was trying to co-opt the wave of angry protests in the Muslim world over a film produced in the US denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.
In a move to try to end the unrest, the top religious authority in Saudi Arabia said Muslims should not be "dragged by anger" into violence, suggesting the film could not truly hurt Islam.
No evidence of al-Qaida link
So far, there has been no evidence of a direct role by al-Qaida in the protests, which brought a flurry of attacks on American and other Western diplomatic missions last week.
The protests have been fuelled mainly by ultraconservative Islamists. But US and Libyan officials are investigating whether the protests were a cover for militants to target the American Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi and kill Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last Tuesday.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the group in Yemen in known, said the killing of Stevens was "the best example" for those attacking embassies to follow.
"What has happened is a great event, and these efforts should come together in one goal, which is to expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims," the group said. It called on protests to continue in Muslim nations "to set the fires blazing at these embassies".
In a separate statement, the group claimed that those who attacked the consulate in Libya were in part acting in anger over the killing in a US drone strike earlier this year of Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaida's then number two.
Last Friday, protests against the movie titled Innocence of Muslims spread dramatically, breaking out in 20 nations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. While peaceful in most places, the protests turned into assaults on US and other Western embassies in Sudan and Tunis and violent clashes with police in several countries that left at least six dead.