TUNIS, Tunisia (TheBlaze/AP) — Violent protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunis against an anti-Muslim film were met with tear gas and gunshots Friday, leaving two people dead, 40 others injured and plumes of black smoke wafting over the city.

Several dozen protesters briefly stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Tunisia’s capital, tearing down the American flag and raising a flag with the Muslim profession of faith on it as part of the protests. Protesters also set fire to an American school adjacent to the embassy compound and prevented firefighters from approaching it. The school appeared to be empty and no injuries were reported.

2 Dead, 29 Injured in Violent Protests Outside U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia

A black Islamic flag flies over U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia. (Source: clevelandleader.com)

Earlier, several thousand demonstrators had gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, including stone-throwing protesters who clashed with police, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. Police responded with gunshots and tear gas. Police and protesters held running battles in the streets of Tunis. Amid the unrest, youths set fire to cars in the embassy parking lot and pillaged businesses nearby.

The state news agency TAP, citing the health ministry, said both of those killed were demonstrators, while the injured included protesters and police.

A Tunisian employee of the U.S. Embassy who had an injured leg was taken out on a stretcher to an ambulance. It wasn’t immediately clear if there were any other injuries. Embassy officials did not respond to calls and emails.

The group that breached the U.S. Embassy’s outer wall was eventually pushed back outside by a huge deployment of police and special forces. As night fell, the crowd of protesters outside the embassy dwindled to a handful.

The al-Wataniya 1 television station said the presidential guard also intervened and escorted the U.S. ambassador and about 80 embassy personnel away from the site to safety.

2 Dead, 29 Injured in Violent Protests Outside U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia

Smoke rises from the US embassy building in Tunis during a protest against a film mocking Islam on September 14, 2012. The demonstrators, acting aggressively, managed to clamber over one of the walls round the mission, near the car park where several vehicles had been set ablaze, the photographer said. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

2 Dead, 29 Injured in Violent Protests Outside U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia

Tunisian protesters throw stones during a protest against a film mocking Islam outside the US embassy in Tunis on September 14, 2012. The demonstrators, acting aggressively, managed to clamber over one of the walls round the mission, near the car park where several vehicles had been set ablaze, the photographer said. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

2 Dead, 29 Injured in Violent Protests Outside U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia

Tunisian protestors burn a U.S. flag during a protest about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, near the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. About 50 protesters burned American flags outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia's capital as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Credit: AP)

2 Dead, 29 Injured in Violent Protests Outside U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia

Tunisian protesters break the windows as they hold Islamic flags above the gate of US embassy in Tunis during a protest against a film mocking Islam on September 14, 2012. Protesters break through into the compound of the US embassy in Tunis, undeterred by volleys of tear gas and warning shots fired by security forces. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Crowds allegedly angry over an anti-Muslim film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad have assaulted U.S. embassies across the Middle East. However, others have suggested that radical Islamists are merely using the controversial film as cover to carry out attacks and violent protests.

The degree of violence in Tunisia surprised many and raised new questions about the direction of the country, where an uprising last year forced out its longtime president and set off pro-democracy revolts across the Arab world. A once-banned Islamist party came to power in elections last year, but the moderate government has struggled to quell protests by increasingly vocal ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis.