US ambassador killed in Libya attack

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Libyan civilians help an unconscious man, identified by eyewitnesses as US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, at the US consulate compound in Benghazi in the early hours of 12 September 2012, following an overnight attack on the building. (Photo: AFP - STR)

Published Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Updated 5:25pm: The US ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a mob attack on Tuesday in the Libyan city of Benghazi, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

"The ambassador was killed along with three other officials," said Wanis al-Sharif, Libya's Deputy Interior Minister.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the killings and paid tribute to Ambassador Chris Stevens.

"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," Obama said, in a White House statement.

"Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers," he said.

"I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe," he added.

John Christopher Stevens arrived to Libya as US ambassador in May, having served as the US special representative to Libya's National Transitional Council during the country's revolt last year against Muammar Gaddafi.

Stevens' death in Tuesday's attack was also confirmed in a tweet by Mustafa Abu Shagur, the deputy prime minister, who condemned the "cowardly act of attacking the US consulate and the killing of (ambassador) Mr Stevens and other diplomats."

Protesters in Egypt and Libya attacked US diplomatic missions on Tuesday in a spasm of violence allegedly in response to a US film that they believe insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

Obama said that "while the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said the killing of the US diplomats by "a savage and small group" should "shock the consciences of people" around the world.

In paying tribute to Stevens and his co-workers, she vowed the United States would not turn its back on Libya as it tries to build a new future.

Envoy died helping to evacuate staff

Fawzi Wanis, who heads the High Security Commission in Benghazi, confirmed that Stevens was at the consulate when it was attacked.

Libyan officials, cited by AP, said that Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters were firing gunshots and rocket propelled grenades.

Two of the four Americans killed allegedly died in a shooting during an attempt by US forces to evacuate staff from a safe house, Libyan minister al-Sharif said.

US consular staff were moved to the safe house after an attack on the consul building in the eastern city of Benghazi in which the ambassador was killed, Sharif told a news conference.

A plane with US security units arrived from Tripoli to evacuate other staff but militants discovered the location of the safe house, he said.

"It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting," he said.

Two American security personnel were killed in the shooting, Sharif said. Two other people were killed and between 12 and 17 wounded.

The US is dispatching a Marine fleet anti-terrorist security team to boost security in Libya, a US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israeli-American film sparks angry protests

The violence in Benghazi followed protests in neighboring Egypt where protesters scaled the walls of the Cairo embassy and tore down the American flag and burned it during protests over the film.

On Tuesday, Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar mosque and seat of Sunni learning condemned a symbolic "trial" of the Prophet organized by a US group including Terry Jones, a Christian pastor who triggered riots in Afghanistan in 2010 by threatening to burn the Quran.

But it was not immediately clear whether it was the event sponsored by Jones, or another, possibly related, anti-Islam production, that prompted the melee at the US Embassy in Egypt, and possibly the violence in Libya.

Whatever the cause, the events appeared to underscore how much the ground in the Middle East has shifted for Washington, which for decades had close ties with Arab dictators who could be counted on to muzzle dissent.

Obama's administration in recent weeks had appeared to overcome some of its initial caution following the election of an Islamist Egyptian president, Mohammed Mursi, offering his government desperately needed debt relief and backing for international loans.

In Libya, gunmen in Benghazi attacked the US diplomatic compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces, officials said.

Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya's Supreme Security Committee, said, "There is a connection between this attack and the protests that have been happening in Cairo."

But a US official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had no reason to believe the two incidents were linked.

Jones, the Christian pastor in Florida, said that on Tuesday's anniversary of the 11 September 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he had released a video promoting a film that portrayed the Prophet in a "satirical" manner.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet offensive.

US media, including The Wall Street Journal, reported that the film at issue, entitled "Innocence of Muslims," was produced by an Israeli-American real estate developer, but had been promoted by Jones.

In Cairo, among about 2,000 protesters gathered in the Egyptian capital was Ismail Mahmoud, who, like others, did not name the film that angered him, but called on Mursi, Egypt's first civilian president, to take action.

"This movie must be banned immediately and an apology should be made," said the 19-year-old Mahmoud, a member of the "ultras" soccer supporters who played a big role in the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak last year.

Once the US flag was hauled down in Cairo, some protesters tore it up and displayed bits to television cameras. Others burned the remnants outside the fortress-like embassy building in central Cairo. But some protesters objected to the flag burning.

Benghazi clashes

In Benghazi, Reuters reporters on the scene could see looters raiding the empty US consulate's compound, walking off with desks, chairs and washing machines.

Unknown gunmen were shooting at the buildings, while others threw handmade bombs into the compound, setting off small explosions. Small fires were burning around the compound.

Passersby entered the unsecured compound to take pictures with their mobile phones and watch the looting.

No security forces could be seen around the consulate and a previous blockade of the road leading to it had been dismantled.

"The Libyan security forces came under heavy fire and we were not prepared for the intensity of the attack," Hurr said.

Libya's interim government has struggled to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups that have refused to lay down their weapons and often take the law into their own hands.

A number of security violations have rocked Benghazi, Libya's second biggest city and the cradle of last year's revolt that toppled Gaddafi.

The breaching of the US Embassy walls in Cairo comes at a delicate time in US-Egyptian relations, and as the United States appeared to be trying an intensified engagement with Mursi's government.

Last week, US officials said they were close to a deal with Egypt's government for $1 billion in debt relief. Washington had also signaled its backing for a badly needed $4.8 billion loan that Egypt is seeking from the International Monetary Fund.

"I would urge you not to draw too many conclusions because we've also had some very positive developments in our relationship with Egypt," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"One of the things about the new Egypt is that protest is possible," she said. "Obviously we all want to see peaceful protest, which is not what happened outside the US mission, so we're trying to restore calm now."

Washington has a large mission in Egypt, partly due to a huge aid program that followed Egypt's signing of a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. The United States gives $1.3 billion to Egypt's military each year.

Following the protest, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said it was committed to giving all embassies the protection they needed.

(Reuters, AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

Without being racist as I am not as most Americans are not given they are brought up in a multi-cultural society, what is wrong with these people in that part of the world. Oh boy it is scary to see how they react to something that should have been viewed as simply distasteful. Get your act together down there cause life is prescious and you have no right to take someone's life in that manner. The world is getting a little bit tired of you resorting so easily to violence. Don't give me the you Americans bit we are not perfect either but you guys are................................

Notice how his belt is being franticly loosened, for the Revolutionary 'treatment', while still warm ... ah, 'tis poetry in reciprocating motion ... Score +1 for OBL, who surely LOLs down from Heaven to see his Disciples continue trolling the Yankis very hard in the old-school way he so wisely instructed!

I wonder how cheap can life be.Simply read between the lines.
"The US is dispatching a Marine fleet anti-terrorist security team to boost security in Libya, a US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity." Now this is what they needed to invade the country. The got what they want. Now they will have an anti-terrorist security team. Give it time and they will take control of the country.
"It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting,"
When are we going to wake up. Arabs will never wake up. Now the media will take control of the incident, and we all know how the US media deals with incidents like that. They will show the US community that they need to interfere to help other communities and to secure the life of their own personnel.

wake up americans ,,
if u r not going to change your hypocratic
laws towards muslims ,,
u will face the same fate like american
embassador to libya.
just leave alone wiki leaks founder and punish Tery Jones other wise muslims will
get you punished ,,

One wonders (and especially Hillary Clinton of, "we came, we saw, he died ".....fame) what it feels like to see one of their own in this ratchet state,,,,,,,,it brings back terrible memories how they undignified and inhumanely treated Muamar Gadhafi upon his capture,,,,,,....you could almost say....,you shall reap what you sow.

I hope you don't have any nightmares watching this Hillary........

yes, sure, in Bengazi "Gaddafi Loyalist" LOL. It was done by the same 'revos" whom USA armed, supported and prized. As usual, see Afghanistan in 1979, for ex. They got what they asked for.

This is done either by Gaddafi Loyalist or Assad`s secret service to warn the Americans of the syrian revolutionaries.

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