US Ambassador, 3 Staff Killed in Libya Attack

Posted September 12th, 2012 at 8:00 am (UTC-5)
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The United States ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed after a mob stormed the U.S. consulate in the eastern city Benghazi late Tuesday.

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, a career U.S. foreign service officer and one of the most experienced U.S. envoys in the region, had been in the country for less than four months after taking up his post in the capital, Tripoli, in May.

U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday condemned the killing of the four Americans.

“They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. He described Stevens as a “courageous and exemplary representative of the United States” who had selflessly carried out his duties throughout the Libyan revolution.

Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour also condemned the killing of the four U.S. diplomats, calling it a cowardly act.

Stevens was widely admired by the Libyan rebels for his support of their uprising that overthrew Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The deaths occurred when demonstrators reportedly angered over an amateur American-made film that mocks Islam's Prophet Muhammad shot at and set fire to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif told reporters that an armed group attacked the premises in an “almost suicidal” mission. He said the U.S. consulate is at “fault” for not taking adequate precautions. But further details of the incident were unclear.

Earlier reports said several dozen gunmen from the Islamist group Ansar al Sharia attacked the U.S. consulate with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, then set it on fire. The Associated Press reported that Stevens and his colleagues were killed when he went to the building to evacuate staff.

Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the Benghazi attack “in the strongest terms.”

Clinton said some have sought to justify “this vicious behavior” as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. She said the U.S. deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but rejected any “justification for violent acts of this kind.”

In Egypt, protesters scaled the fortified walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, tore up an American flag and replaced it with an Islamic banner. The demonstrators there – mainly ultraconservative Islamists – continued their protest action through the early hours of Wednesday.

The mobs were sparked by outrage over the film that U.S. media said was produced by Israeli-American Sam Bacile, who describes Islam as a “cancer,” and financed by expatriate members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority group. Clips of the film in English and Arabic have recently been posted on YouTube.

The protests coincide with the 11th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States.