(CNN) - As the fallout from an online film that mocks Islam's holy prophet continues, al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa urged Muslims in the region Tuesday to kill U.S. government representatives and called the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens a "gift."
"We encourage all Muslims to continue to demonstrate and escalate their protests ... and to kill their (American) ambassadors and representatives or to expel them to cleanse our land from their wickedness," said the statement from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The group called last week's killing of Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, "the best gift you (can) give to his arrogant and unjust administration."
Elsewhere Tuesday, a Taliban-allied insurgent group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 12 people, including eight foreigners, in Afghanistan, saying it was in response to the film.
Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, a group allied with the Taliban, said a 22-year-old woman drove a car packed with 660 pounds (272 kilograms) of explosives into a van on a road leading to the Kabul International Airport.
Eleven others were wounded in the attack, the Interior Ministry said.
The escalating tensions have spilled into U.S. military operations in the central Asia nation, prompting the Pentagon to order U.S. troops to halt some joint operations with Afghan security forces to minimize attacks on American and NATO troops by their local allies.
"Recent events outside of and inside Afghanistan related to the 'Innocence of Muslims' video plus the conduct of recent insider attacks have given cause for ISAF troops to exercise increased vigilance and carefully review all activities and interactions with the local population," a spokeswoman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said. The operations with Afghan forces could increase as the "threat level" goes down, she said.
Here are the latest key developments:
Tuesday got off to a more quiet start in parts of the world that had been rocked by protests in recent days.
A general strike flared in Indian-administered Kashmir, shutting down businesses, public transport and most government operations, with reports of sporadic violence.
A coalition of religious parties and separatist groups called the strike as a protest against the film.
The scene was much different a day earlier, when demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Answering a call from the leader of Hezbollah -- deemed a terrorist organization by the United States -- thousands packed the streets of Beirut's southern suburbs Monday and chanted "Death to America!"
Monday's protests, for their part, weren't on the scale as those last week, nor did they provoke the same level of international crisis by endangering U.S. diplomatic missions.
Still, the fact that the demonstrations are continuing -- and that they have occurred, now, in more than 20 countries -- suggests the anti-American furor tied to the inflammatory film isn't going away.
The United States has made it clear that it did not sanction the low-budget, amateurish 14-minute movie trailer posted on YouTube and produced privately in the United States. The clip, which has been banned by YouTube in several countries, mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
Islam forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is taboo among many in the Muslim world.
The film clip was relatively obscure until September 11, when rioters breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and upset protesters attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Stevens and three other Americans.
A wave of protests since then has rippled from Morocco to Malaysia, spurring U.S. officials to increase security at diplomatic missions and demand other governments to take action.
Investigation into ambassador's killing
Libya has taken steps to arrest those responsible for last week's deadly consulate attack, bringing in dozens for questioning over the weekend, Libyan officials said. The exact number of arrests was unclear. One Libyan official said those arrested included suspects from Mali and Algeria, as well as al Qaeda sympathizers.
Wanes al-Sharif, a deputy interior minister whose jurisdiction included eastern Libya, was fired one day after the Benghazi attack, according to documents obtained Monday by CNN. No reason was given for al-Shari's dismissal. Notably, he told reporters after the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi assault that he'd ordered a security force mobilized during the unrest "to leave the area because of the large number of protesters."
The FBI is also investigating the Libya attack but has yet to enter the country because of volatility there. In the meantime, FBI agents are interviewing witnesses outside Libya, federal law enforcement officials said.
While U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters over the weekend that the worst of the violence appeared to be over, the United States is maintaining