Libyan protesters attacked the US Embassy in Benghazi late Tuesday with guns and rocket propelled grenades, killing four consulate workers as they tried to flee the area. The White House identified two of the dead as J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador to Lybia, and Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The other two Americans have not been identified.
The protests erupted Tuesday over an American film by Sam Bacile that ridicules Islam's prophet Mohammed. Some Libyans attempted to defend the embassy along with security staff, but protesters only became more incensed, according to Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif.
"This led to more anger and this is when the consulate was stormed," he said. "Criminals managed to get in and they burned and ransacked the consulate.”
Stevens and several embassy employees were attacked while trying to help evacuate the consulate. Libyans attempting to stop the protesters reportedly rushed Stevens to a nearby hospital where he died of asphyxiation from smoke inhalation. The three other embassy employees died of gunshot wounds. Protesters looted the embassy on Wednesday.
Libya Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib condemned the attack as a “cowardly criminal act” while Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said he “condemns these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms.” “This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere," Abushagur Tweeted.
President Barack Obama vowed to “bring justice to killers who attack our people.”
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. 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,” the president said in a statement.
“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. 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,” he continued.
“On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. 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. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss,” President Obama added.
Similar protests broke out at the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday, but no consulate personnel were injured or killed.
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