US ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi attack
In Egypt, frenzied mob angry at 'anti-Mohammad' film scale U.S. embassy walls in Cairo
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LONDON, UK (ANS) -- In a shocking display of anti-American violence on the very day Americans were remembering the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed in an attack on the Benghazi consulate and a safe house refuge, and an American flag was burned outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Both places in Benghazi were stormed by Islamist gunmen blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States Sept. 11, 2012
(Photo: Esam Al-Fetori Reuters).
A story by Reuters said, "Gunmen attacked and set fire to the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of last year's U.S.-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule.
"Another assault was mounted on the U.S. embassy in Cairo."
U.S. President Barack Obama branded it an "outrageous attack" and ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide.
"Violence also threatened to spread to other Muslim countries. By nightfall on Wednesday, 24 hours after the attacks in Egypt and Libya, police were firing teargas at angry demonstrators outside the U.S. embassy in Tunisia," the story added.
Media reports said that it was not immediately clear precisely how or where California-born ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed during the assault. Stevens was a key player when the United States supported the anti-Gaddafi insurgency, which makes his killing even more shocking.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed during the assault
Libya's Deputy Interior Minister Wanis Al-Sharif said that U.S. consular staff were rushed to a safe house after the initial attack, An evacuation plane with U.S. commando units then arrived from Tripoli to evacuate them from the house.
"It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting," Sharif said. Two U.S. personnel were killed there, he said. Two other people were killed at the main consular building and between 12 and 17 wounded.
Reuters went on to say, "The amateurish film portrayed Mohammad as a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake. In one clip posted on YouTube, Mohammad was shown in an apparent sex act with a woman."
The story added:
"The precise provenance of the film was the subject of some debate. The Wall Street Journal quoted a man who described himself as an Israeli-American property developer and said he produced the film with funds raised from the Jewish community," said Reuters.
Frenzied mob attacking the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi
Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet as offensive and any depiction of him can cause furious protests in the Islamic world as well as among Muslims in Europe.
In Egypt, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil condemned violence while calling on Washington to act against the film's makers.
"What happened at the U.S. embassy in Cairo is regrettable and rejected by all Egyptian people and cannot be justified, especially if we consider that the people that produced this low film have no relation to the (U.S.) government," he said.
"We ask the American government to take a firm position towards this film's producers within the framework of international charters that criminalize acts that stir strife on the basis of race, color or religion."
Mob in Cairo burning an American flag
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the attack was the work of a "small and savage group".
Accounts of the consulate attack described chaos and bloodshed, with Libyan security over-run and retreating.
"We started shooting at them, and then some other people also threw hand-made bombs over the fences and started the fires in the buildings," said 17-year-old Hamam, who took part in the assault and refused to give his last name.
"There was some Libyan security for the embassy outside but when the hand-made bombs went off they ran off and left," said Hamam, who said he saw an American die in front of him in the mayhem that ensued. He said the body was covered in ash.
One Libyan security official blamed the attack on Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-style Sunni Islamist group that has been active in Benghazi. Sharif, the deputy interior minister, said leaders of the group had denied responsibility: "There is no specific side to blame."
A media report said that witnesses said the mob included tribesmen, militia and other gunmen. Ansar al-Sharia cars arrived at the start of the protest but left once fighting started, Hamam said. "The protesters were running around the compound just looking for Americans, they just wanted to find an American so they could catch one."
"The Libyan security forces came under heavy fire and we were not prepared for the intensity of the attack," said Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, a spokesman for Libya's Supreme Security Committee.
U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries as Libya are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Diplomatic missions are normally protected by Marines or other special forces.
Stevens grew up in California, graduated from Berkeley and worked in North Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. He taught English in Morocco before joining the foreign service where he worked in the Middle East and North Africa.
Tributes poured in to honor Stevens, who said in a video posted on the embassy website of his involvement in the revolution: "I was thrilled to watch the Libyan people stand up and demand their rights."
Libya's interim government has struggled to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups that refused to lay down their weapons and often take the law into their own hands.
Security experts say the area around Benghazi is host to a number of Islamist militant groups who oppose any Western presence in Muslim countries.
Libyan Deputy Prime Minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, condemned the killing of the U.S. diplomats as a cowardly act. The head of Libya's national assembly vowed to bring the killers to justice.
Meanwhile, the violence spread to neighboring Egypt, where demonstrators tore down an American flag and burned it during Tuesday's protest against the film. Some tried to raise a black flag with the words "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger".
The crowd of around 2,000 protesters in Cairo protesting against the film was a mixture of Islamists and teenage soccer fans known for fighting police and who played a part in the revolt that toppled Egypt's leader Hosni Mubarak last year.
Note: Additional reporting for the Rueters story was by Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tripoli, Hadeel Al Shalchi in Tripoli, Sarah N. Lynch and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, and Reuters reporters in Cairo and Benghazi; Writing by Peter Millership; Editing by Peter Graff)
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