Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa said Tuesday that last week’s murder of U.S. ambassador John Christopher Stevens was a “gift” and called for the deaths of more diplomats as further response to the American-made movie that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.
Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb praised the killing of John Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
“We encourage all Muslims to continue to demonstrate and escalate their protests … and to kill their (American) ambassadors and representatives or to expel them to cleanse our land from their wickedness,” the group said in a released statement.
The group called last week’s killing of Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, “the best gift you (can) give to his arrogant and unjust administration.”
Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb threatened additional attacks in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania in response to the 14-minute, low-budget movie.
Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recently issued a similar call for attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities. The group is Al Qaeda’s most active branch in the Middle East.
Elsewhere Tuesday, a Taliban-allied insurgent group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that left 12 people dead, including eight South Africans, in Afghanistan. The attack was a response to the film, the group said.
Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, a group allied with the Taliban, said a 22-year-old woman drove a car packed with 660 pounds of explosives into a van on a road leading to Kabul International Airport.
Eleven others were wounded in the attack, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.
The escalating tensions have spilled into NATO military operations in the central Asia nation, prompting the alliance to order its troops to adjust joint operations with Afghan security forces to minimize attacks on them by their local allies.
“Recent events outside of and inside Afghanistan related to the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video plus the conduct of recent insider attacks have given cause for ISAF troops to exercise increased vigilance and carefully review all activities and interactions with the local population,” said a spokeswoman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The operations with Afghan forces could increase as the “threat level” goes down, she said.
In other related news, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters over the weekend that the worst of the violence appears over, but that the United States is maintaining tight security anyway.
Nonessential personnel have been ordered to leave American diplomatic missions in Sudan, Tunisia and Libya. In Yemen, consular services have been suspended until the end of the month.
But the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the scene of five consecutive days of protests, returned to full staffing Sunday, the State Department said.
Federal officials say the man behind the film that sparked the worldwide protests and his family have moved to an undisclosed location. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a convicted felon with a history of using aliases to hide his actions and is on probation for bank fraud.