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Man Believed To Have Made Anti-Islamic Film Questioned; Egyptian Police Clear Out Protesters

Al-Qaida Calls For More Attacks On Embassies; Praises Killing Of Ambassador
Anti-American Protests in the Middle East (Credit: CBS 2)

Anti-American Protests in the Middle East (Credit: CBS 2)

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LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) - A Southern California filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station, but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early on Saturday.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed at the station in his hometown of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Walker said.

Federal officials have said they were investigating the activities of Nakoula, who has been convicted of financial crimes. If the probation department determines Nakoula violated terms of his release, a judge could send him back to prison.

Walker said Nakoula traveled voluntarily in a squad car with deputies.

“He went to the Cerritos station to talk with probation officers, and he’s not under any arrest,” Walker said.

Egyptian police on Saturday cleared out protesters who have been clashing with security forces for the past four days near the U.S. Embassy, as most cities around the Muslim world reported calm a day after at least six people were killed in a wave of angry protests over an anti-Islam film.

Security forces erected a concrete wall blocking the main street leading to the embassy in Cairo after finally dispersing several hundred youths who had been battling with police, trying to get to the building. They also cleared nearby Tahrir Square where protests were being held.

Muslims angry over the film produced in the U.S. denigrating the Prophet Muhammad took the streets on Friday in more than 20 countries from the Mideast to Southeast Asia. In most countries, protests were peaceful, if vehement. But deadly clashes erupted in several places. Protesters in Sudan and Tunisia tried to storm Western embassies, an American fast-food restaurant was set ablaze in Lebanon and international peacekeepers were attacked in the Sinai.

In Cairo, the clashes Friday brought the first Egyptian to be killed in Tahrir Square protests since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was elected and took office this summer. A 36-year-old died from wounds from rubber bullets, his family and doctors at a Cairo hospital said. Weeping relatives at the hospital held his 25-day-old daughter, named Ganna, or “Heaven.”

Two demonstrators died in Sudan, two died in Tunisia and another was killed in Lebanon. On Thursday, four Yemeni protesters were killed in protests that turned violent at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa.

The only report of violence linked to the film on Saturday came from Sydney, Australia, where riot police clashed with about 200 protesters at the U.S. Consulate.

Ten Network television news showed a policeman knocked unconscious as the mostly male crowd hurled bottles and other projectiles. Police used pepper spray against the protesters, who chanted “Obama, Obama, we love Osama” and waved placards saying “Behead all those who insult the Prophet.” Six police were injured and two protesters were treated for police dog bites, police said in a statement.

The anger was sparked by a film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” which was produced in the United States and mocked the Prophet Muhammad by showing him as a fraud, a womanizer, a homosexual and a madman. A 14-minute excerpt of the movie, dubbed into Arabic, was posted on YouTube. The film has been described by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as “an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

President Barack Obama said Washington would “stand fast” against attacks on U.S. embassies around the world. He spoke at a somber ceremony paying tribute to four Americans — including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens — killed Tuesday when the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was stormed by militants. The attackers are suspected of using protests of the anti-Muslim film to stage an assault on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Also on Tuesday, protesters swarmed up the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, bringing down an American flag and replacing it briefly with an Islamist banner.

For days afterward, the protesters were in stone-throwing clashes with police firing tear gas. On Friday, the crowd of protesters grew to around 2,000 in the melee near the embassy and several large hotels that overlook the Nile River. The dwindling group of protesters was chased away Saturday morinng.

The Interior Ministry said 220 people had been arrested.

In the U.S., security will be heightened for the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days.

On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said he wants to make sure the holidays are peaceful.

“With the increase of hate crimes across the nation, it remains a goal of my administration to combat racism and inequalities, and to work together to make sure that we can eliminate and eradicate discrimination,” Mangano said.

There has not been a specific threat in Nassau County or anywhere else in the Tri-State Area.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown on Sunday.

What do you make of all the violence in the Middle East in response to this film? Offer your thoughts and comments in the section below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)