US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American foreign service officers were killed in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The American news media is reporting that the attacks were spurred by an obscure film that was insulting to the Muslim religion that was promoted by anti-Islamic Florida pastor Terry Jones. The foreign press said that it may have been started by “hardline jihadists:”
The exact circumstances of the ambassador’s death remain unclear. On Tuesday night a group of extremists attacked the US consulate building in Benghazi, setting it on fire, and killing one US diplomatic officer.
On Tuesday the US state department confirmed that one of its employees had been killed by the mob that stormed the US mission in Benghazi, incensed by a US film that they deemed blasphemous to the prophet Muhammad. Libyan officials said Stevens and two security staff were in their car when gunmen fired rockets at it, Reuters reported. The official said the US military had sent a military plane to transport the bodies to Tripoli and to fly them back to the US.
One witness told the Guardian on Wednesday that a mob fired at least one rocket at the US consulate building in Benghazi and then stormed it, setting everything ablaze. “I was there about an hour ago. The place [consulate] is totally destroyed, the whole building is on fire,” said Mohammed El Kish, a former press officer with the National Transitional Council, which handed power to an elected parliament last month. He added: “They stole a lot of things.”
Kish, who is from Benghazi, blamed the attack on hardline jihadists. He said locals in Benghazi were upset by the activities of Islamist groups and would revolt against them. He also said the US consulate was not well protected, unlike the fortified US embassy in the capital, Tripoli. “It wasn’t that much heavily guarded. In Tripoli the embassy is heavily guarded.”
One of the other foreign service officers killed, Sean Smith, was mourned by the gaming community were he was an active participant and often spoke about his job.
President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House, strongly condemned the violence:
“These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity,” Mr. Obama said in a televised statement from the White House Rose Garden where he stood side-by-side with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Make no mistake: we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.”
Mr. Obama also offered praise for the Libyan government, noting that Libyan security forces fought back against the mob, helped protect American diplomats and took Mr. Stevens’s body to the hospital. “This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” he said. [..]
“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,” Mr. Obama said, calling Mr. Stevens “a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States” who had “selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi” and, as ambassador, “supported Libya’s transition to democracy.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who appeared visibly upset, made this statement:
“This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence and we send our prayers to the families, friends and colleagues of those we’ve lost.”
Mrs. Clinton described the Benghazi assailants as “a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.”
Only two of those killed have been identified, Amb. Smith and Foreign Service Off. Sean Smith