U.S. ambassador to Libya killed in attack on consulate
Christopher Stevens and other diplomats were being rushed from the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which had been overrun by protesters, when their car was struck by a missile, reports say.
- Photo via Getty
The consulate was attacked on Tuesday as part of protests over at least one U.S.-made movie that mocks the founding of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad. It was the second U.S. facility attacked, following protests earlier in the day in Cairo, Egypt.
Al Jazeera reports that Stevens died of smoke inhalation after the consulate was set on fire. Two U.S. security personnel with him also died.
The two other victims were being evacuated from a safe house when they came under fire, reports Reuters. The consular staff was moved to the safe house following the attacks that killed Stevens.
"It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it," Libya's Deputy Interior Minister Wanis Al-Sharif is quoted as saying in the Reuters report.
Later in the day, CNN reported that Stevens was not believed to be the target, and AP reported officials were investigating the possibility the attack was related to the 9/11 anniversary, as well as the video. In any case, officials said the attack appeared to be well-planned.
- This video depicts the scene of the attack:
- President Barack Obama spoke about the attacks from the Rose Garden Wednesday morning. @WHLive tweeted his remarks.
He identified Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith as one of the others killed in the attack: "We are still notifying the families of the others killed," he said.
Obama added that Libyan forces "carried Ambassador Stevens' body to the hospital, where we tragically learned he died."
- "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation," Obama said, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton standing at his side.
Obama ended his statements by saying "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation," and added: "We will not waiver in our commitment to see that justice is done."
As he walked away from the podium, a reporter shouted: "Was this an act of war?" Obama did not take questions.
- Above, a photo taken inside the compound by an AFP photographer after protesters had broken inside.
The victims: Ambassador Christopher Stevens
- Stevens, a native of Northern California who once taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, took the post as U.S. ambassador to Libya in May this year.
This was not Stevens' first time serving in Libya. From March-November 2011, during the Libyan revolution, he was a special representative to the Libyan Transitional Council. From 2007-2009, Stevens served as Deputy Chief of Mission in the country.
"On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States," said President Barack Obama in a statement. "Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi."
"As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy," Obama said. "His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice."
Sean Smith, Foreign Service Information Management Officer
- "Sean Smith was a husband and a father of two, who joined the department 10 years ago. Like Chris, Sean was one of our best. Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and most recently The Hague," said Hillary Clinton on Wednesday. Smith was an influential player in the gaming world, and one of his gaming friends posted a lengthy obituary on him. Smith's gaming handle was Vile_Rat, and he was apparently communicating with other gamers until shortly before he was killed.
12:06 p.m. ET: The State Department has not released the names of the two other Americans who were killed, pending notification of their families.
The movieThis movie is being backed by Florida pastor Terry Jones, who became widely known for threatening to burn a Quran in 2010. Another video that's been circulating in recent weeks, "Mohammad, Prophet of Muslims," portrays Mohammad as "a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake," according to Reuters. The filmmaker was allegedly Sam Bacile, an alleged Northern California real estate tycoon and Israeli-American, who said he knew his film would lead to violence. UPDATE: Bacile's identity is being questioned by numerous outlets. The video is being blocked in various Middle Eastern nations, and Jones was asked by a top military officer to stop supporting the video.
Presidential politics impact
- A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."
That statement was issued early Tuesday, prior to the attacks that killed the ambassador and others.
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