How 'Innocence of Muslims' Spread Around the Globe and Killed a US Diplomat

An anti-Islamic film wound up on Egyptian TV, spreading quickly toward a deadly clash.

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The identity of the filmmaker behind the anti-Islamic video "Innocence of Muslims" remains unclear, but the way the film spread before it reportedly led to the angry protests that killed a U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans can be more clearly traced.

The film appears to have first popped up on YouTube in July, in the form of a 14-minute English-language trailer. Few watched it. The film was reposted to YouTube last week, this time dubbed into Arabic. And according to the New York Times Lede blog, that version was soon copied on YouTube again and again.

But the film only really picked up steam when it was posted to "Nacopticas," a blog run by an Egyptian-American lawyer and Coptic Christian named Morris Sadek. Also on Sadek's site: a photo of himself alongside Terry Jones, the Florida pastor infamous for having burned copies of the Koran.

Sadek is known for his anti-Muslim screeds, and for having had his Egyptian citizenship revoked in May 2011 after he allegedly called for attacks on Egypt. Sadek, who lives in the U.S., has filed multiple, unsuccessful lawsuits to regain his citizenship.

But Sadek's promotion of the film didn't stop with his blog. In an interview with the Associated Press, he told the wire service he promoted the film on Egyptian television stations as well. Sadek did not respond to request for comment from U.S. News.

A broadcast on one station, an Egyptian channel called Al-Nas, appears to have been the tipping point for the film.

Al-Nas is an immensely popular, and very religious channel whose motto is "a channel that will take you to heaven." Earlier this week, a complaint was filed against Al-Nas for allegedly "inciting strife between Muslims and Christians" in an unrelated incident.

A scene from the trailer of "Innocence of Muslims" was broadcast on Al-Nas just days ago by host Sheikh Khaled Abdalla. The particularly controversial scene depicted the prophet Muhammad as a "buffoonish caricature," according to the Lede.

While the Quran does not ban visual depictions of the prophet Muhammad, some Islamic traditions see it as deeply disrespectful.

Within 48 hours of Al-Nas's broadcast, hundreds of protesters were climbing the walls of the United States embassy in Cairo in protest, and an armed mob was setting fire to the consulate in Benghazi. U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in the attack, the first time an ambassador was killed in the line of duty since 1979, along with three other Americans.

According to the AP, the maker of the film has now gone into hiding.

Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.