CAIRO – The Obama administration ordered the evacuation of all but emergency U.S. government personnel, and all family members, from diplomatic missions in Tunisia and Sudan on Saturday and warned Americans not to travel to those countries.
The action came as leaders across the Muslim world took stock of their relationship with the United States, a major provider of aid and investment, and struggled to balance it with the simmering anger of their populations.
In Sudan, the State Department order came after the government in Khartoum rejected a U.S. request to send a Marine anti-terrorism unit to protect the embassy there, which came under attack by protesters Friday.
The decision to evacuate was the latest consequence of a week of anti-American rage across more than 20 countries in the Muslim world, although most were quiet Saturday. U.S. officials said they ordered the evacuations out of caution rather than knowledge of any specific threats. The United States does not currently have an ambassador assigned to Sudan but maintains a diplomatic presence there.
Saturdays pullback follows the evacuation of 50 U.S. diplomatic personnel from Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department employees were killed Tuesday in an assault on the consulate in Benghazi.
In Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula issued a statement urging more killings of U.S. diplomats, and the Yemeni parliament demanded that all foreign troops in the country be sent home, including roughly 50 U.S. Marines deployed to protect the embassy there.
The U.S. military and CIA have been in Yemen for some time, in cooperation with the Yemeni government, as part of counterterrorism operations.
In Egypt, after days of pressure from the United States, President Mohamed Morsi took decisive action Saturday against lingering protests near the U.S. Embassy, with police making arrests and clearing Tahrir Square of demonstrations whose cause Morsi had only days earlier endorsed.
But he had to contend with continued pressure from ultraconservative Muslims and disaffected young people who had fought for days near the embassy.
Morsi had been in the middle of negotiating more than $1 billion in aid, debt forgiveness and U.S. investments when protesters, prodded by rage over an obscure anti-Islam video that was made in the United States, stormed the embassy walls and pulled down and destroyed the American flag.
But it is the once-repressed, ultraconservative Salafist Nour party that was one of the main sparks of the Tuesday protests in Cairo that presaged the regional conflagration, although Nour backed off when the situation turned violent and endorsed Saturdays sweep of Tahrir.
Their influence is large enough that Morsi held back from condemning the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for days last week, until after a stern phone call from President Obama.
The government made 220 protest-related arrests Saturday, according to news reports.