Abuja/Jos — A nationwide security alert was issued yesterday to forestall violence over the alleged "blasphemous" film released in the United States, which sparked demonstrations around the world that led to the death of the American ambassador in Libya.
Clips of the film at the heart of the row, titled "Innocence of Muslims", presented the Prophet Muhammad in ways that deeply offended Muslims, reports said.
The movie has been circulating on the Internet for weeks, with an Arabic translation being posted on video-sharing website Youtube. It gained further prominence when U.S. pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims with threats to burn the Koran in 2010, lent his support for the film.
In Abuja, the Police Force Headquarters yesterday issued a security alert to all formations, hours after demonstrators over the movie were dispersed in Jos, Plateau State.
"Following recent violent demonstrations in some parts of the world linked to a recent US film believed to have offended a section of some religious faithful, the police has taken immediate proactive security measures to ensure that no similar violence is replicated within our country," police spokesman Frank Mba said in a statement.
"Consequently, the Inspector-General Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar has placed all police formations across the federation on red alert. In this regard, the IG has directed all zonal AIGs and command commissioners to ensure a 24-hour water-tight security in and around all embassies and foreign missions in Nigeria as well as other vulnerable targets.
"In addition, the AIG in charge of intelligence and commissioners in charge of the various special squads such as the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Police Mobile Force (PMF) and Special Protection Unit (SPU) have been directed to ensure that their personnel are strategically deployed to prevent to potential crisis."
Hours before the police alert was announced, Special Task Force (STF) personnel dispersed a group of people demonstrating against the controversial movie in Jos.
About 50 protesters gathered around 'Yan Taya junction in Jos and moved to Zololo junction, displaying placards that say 'To Hell with America and Israel for insulting the Prophet'.
Leader of the demonstrators, Mansur Sani Adamu, told Daily Trust that they were on a peaceful protest. "Anyone who has knowledge of Islam knows that it is peaceful religion so there will be no harm to any life or property," he said.
"We are not happy with what is going on. These people always try to provoke Islam and Muslims because they know how sacrosanct our religion and the Prophet is to us," he added.
But less than an hour after the demonstration started, a detachment of STF personnel arrived in a Hilux van and intercepted the protesters at the Zololo junction.
A Daily Trust reporter observed as the security operatives cautioned the protesters against proceeding without permission.
Spokesman for the STF, Captain Salisu Mustapha, said the demonstrators did not seek permission before starting the protest and so security agencies could not guarantee their safety.
"We will not allow anything that is capable of breaching security in the state," he said.
In parts of the world yesterday, demonstrations continued over the "blasphemy" movie, following the death of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens from smoke inhalation after rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the US consulate in Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday night.
Tunisian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the air to disperse a protest by several hundred people near the US embassy in the capital Tunis, as they chanted slogans including "Obama, Obama, we are here for the triumph of Islam", Reuters news agency reported.
Demonstrations were reported outside the US embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and the US consulate in Casablanca, Morocco, as well as outside the UN offices in the Gaza Strip
The US embassy in Algiers warned Americans in Algeria to avoid non-essential travel amid calls for protests on social media.