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WSU student films Yemeni riot

Fri., Sept. 14, 2012

Cellphone video captured what started as a peaceful protest outside U.S. embassy

Student journalist Mohammed Bahashwan had a firsthand view of Thursday’s protest at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, using his cellphone to capture video of the chaotic scene.

“The situation escalated little by little,” said Bahashwan, a 24-year-old journalism student who studied at Washington State University this summer. “It started to be very wild, very chaotic and violent.”

Bahashwan’s 90-second video provides one of the only recordings of the protest at the American embassy in Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa.

The protest lasted about 45 minutes, resulting in four fatalities and dozens of injuries, Bahashwan reported. He said he believed it began as a nonviolent protest, but that it gradually grew to 200 people.

His footage shows protesters breaking windows and striking at a U.S. government vehicle outside the embassy. Bahashwan said the van’s inhabitants were unharmed.

Bahashwan said 50 to 80 police officers and Yemeni National Guard members surrounded the embassy and began firing shots into the sky. One officer fired shots into the crowd, fatally wounding one of the protesters, he said.

“They weren’t supposed to use any live ammunition,” he said. “It could have been possible to stop the protest without any live bullets.”

Bahashwan said protesters easily passed the outer gate of the embassy. Bahashwan said there were only about six guards in front of the gate, where there are usually about eight to 10. It was the latest of a series of attacks on American embassies in the Middle East, prompted by a film that mocked Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Bahashwan said the film was considered disrespectful to the Muslim religion.

“They’re insulting our very core beliefs,” Bahashwan said. “The topic is offensive to all Muslims … They wanted to show the American government that movies like that should not be produced.”

The scene around the embassy settled down after the protesters were dispersed, Bahashwan said.

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