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Militants seek to harness Muslim rage at film

Claim revenge, stoke protests in Mideast, Africa

Sunni Muslims beat an effigy of President Obama during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images

Muslims beat an effigy of President Obama during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Peshawar, Pakistan.

KABUL — Islamic militants sought Tuesday to capitalize on anger over an anti-Islam video that was produced in the United States, saying a suicide bombing that killed 12 people in Afghanistan was revenge for the film and calling for attacks on US diplomats and facilities in North Africa.

The attempt by extremists across the region to harness Muslim fury over a film that denigrates the prophet Mohammed posed new concern for the United States, whose embassies and consulates have been targeted, and in some cases breached, during riots and protests over the past week.

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At the same time, Western leaders welcomed statements by Middle East governments that condemned the violence against diplomatic facilities on their soil, even as they expressed anger over the video. Some of those governments replaced autocratic regimes in popular uprisings that swept the region, allowing for greater leniency toward protest.

At least 28 people have died in violence linked to the film in seven countries, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in a Sept. 11 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The total also includes 12 protesters killed in riots over the film last week.

Some officials in Libya have said the attack on the consulate was planned in advance by militants. The White House, however, said Tuesday the assault appeared to have been sparked by anger over the film, though the investigation continues.

The crisis has become a major foreign policy challenge for Washington in the final weeks of a presidential election campaign that has largely focused on economic challenges.

The uproar over the video, ‘‘Innocence of Muslims,’’ which was made by an Egyptian-born American citizen and posted on YouTube, reflects seemingly intractable tension between Western principles of free speech and Islamic beliefs that brook no insult directed at the prophet.

The crisis offered fresh impetus for Islamic militants who have long plotted and carried out attacks on Western targets.

Tuesday’s attack in Kabul, the Afghan capital, was carried out by a suicide bomber who rammed a car packed with explosives into a minibus carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport.

At least 12 people died, including eight South Africans, three Afghans, and a citizen of Kyrgyzstan.

A spokesman for the Afghan militant group Hizb-i-Islami claimed responsibility for the dawn attack and said it was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatima.

Suicide bombings carried out by women are rare in Afghanistan, where few, if any, Afghan women drive cars.

Also, Al Qaeda’s branch in North Africa called for attacks on US diplomats and an escalation of protests against the anti-Islam film. In Indonesia, about 200 people from various Islamic groups torched an American flag outside the US Consulate in the city of Medan.

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