The United States and Libya have agreed to cooperate closely in investigating the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi by suspected Islamist militants that killed the American ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff.
The White House says U.S. President Barack Obama called the president of Libya's National Assembly, Mohamed Magarief, late Wednesday and they agreed to work closely in the course of the investigation.
The Libyan leader has apologized to the United States for the attack.
Mr. Obama also called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi about the ongoing anti-American demonstrations in that country, telling him Egypt must cooperate with the United States in securing U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel.
Egyptian police used tear gas as they clashed Thursday with a crowd of about 200 youth protesting outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The demonstrations were against a short American-made amateur film mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
Washington also sent two Navy destroyers, a Marine Corps anti-terrorist security team and federal investigators to Libya to protect Americans and help hunt the suspected religious extremists who carried out the attack late Tuesday.
The Obama administration also ordered the evacuation of all U.S. personnel from Benghazi to the capital, Tripoli.
American officials said Wednesday the attack on the Benghazi compound and a nearby safe house may have been a planned, coordinated and complex operation, in contrast to the initial Cairo protest, which appeared to be spontaneous. They say armed militants in Libya may have used the Cairo events as cover.
But, the officials say it is too early to identify those who killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues or whether the assault was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 (2001) terrorist attacks on the United States.
American intelligence agencies are examining the alleged involvement of pro-al Qaida Ansar al-Sharia militants, but cautioned they do not have solid evidence. On Wednesday, a brigade from the group denied planning the assault.
Ambassador Stevens is the first U.S. envoy to be killed on duty since 1979. He was a career foreign service officer and one of the most experienced American diplomats in the region.
Stevens was widely admired by Libyan rebels for his support of their uprising that overthrew longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year. U.S, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says Stevens risked his life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the “foundation for a new, free nation.”
President Obama Wednesday condemned the killing of the four Americans as “outrageous and shocking.” He also said the United States rejects all efforts to “denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” a reference to the controversial film.
A trailer for the anti-Islamic video was posted on YouTube in July. An Arabic-language translation began circulating in the Middle East in recent days. Clips from the movie depict the Prophet Muhammad as a villainous, homosexual child-molesting buffoon, among other overtly insulting claims. YouTube has taken the clips down, citing legal reasons.