Libyan officials say the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed after a mob stormed the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi late Tuesday.
The deaths occurred when demonstrators angered over an amateur American-made film that insults Islam’s Prophet Muhammad shot at and set fire to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
U.S. 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.
Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said the ambassador was killed “along with three other officials,” confirming that Stevens was at the consulate when it was attacked.
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had confirmed that only a single U.S. official was killed in the Benghazi attack, which she condemned “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.”
Stevens was an experienced diplomat both in the Middle East and in Libya. According to allgov.com, “Stevens was sent to rebel headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, to serve as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council. He arrived on a Greek cargo ship on April 5, 2011 and stayed until November. His mission was to forge stronger links with the Interim Transitional National Council, and gain a better understanding of the various factions fighting the Gadhafi regime. His reports back to Washington were said to have encouraged the U.S. to support the rebel council, which the Obama administration did formally in July 2011.”
Stevens becomes the first U.S. ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1979, when our ambassador to Afghanistan was killed.
CNN confirms the killing, quoting a U.S. contractor who had seen the four bodies. In addition, it reports:
“Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur appeared to confirm that the envoy had been killed, saying that Stevens was “a friend of Libya, and we are shocked at the the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”
“I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere,” Abushagur said on Twitter.
– Jay Bookman