UPDATE: US ambassador killed in consulate attack in Libya
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
U.S. envoy Chris Stevens speaks to local media at the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting in Benghazi, Libya, April 11, 2011.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other
Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi by
protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Ambassador Chris Stevens,
52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to
try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob firing
machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. He was the first U.S.
ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.
President Barack Obama ordered increased security to protect American diplomatic personnel around world.
"I strongly condemn the
outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi," Obama said,
adding the four Americans "exemplified America's commitment to freedom,
justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe."
Libya's interim president,
Mohammed el-Megarif, apologized to the United States for the attack,
which he described as "cowardly." Speaking to reporters, he offered his
condolences on the death of the four Americans and vowed to bring the
culprits to justice and maintain his country's close relations with the
The three Americans killed with Stevens were security guards, he said.
"We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world," el-Megarif said.
The attack in Libya came
hours after Egyptian protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in
Cairo, pulling down the American flag and temporarily replacing it with
a black Islamic banner.
The brazen assaults - the
first on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either country - underscored the
lawlessness that has taken hold in both Egypt and Libya after
revolutions ousted their autocratic secular regimes and upended the
tightly controlled police state in both countries. Islamists, who were
long repressed under the previous regimes, have emerged as a powerful
force but new governments in both nations are struggling to achieve
Egypt's police, a onetime
hated force blamed for massive human rights abuses, have yet to fully
take back the streets after Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February 2011.
On Tuesday, riot police
stood by the embassy's walls but continued to allow protesters to climb
them for several hours. The protesters, however, appeared to
intentionally stick to certain limits: A few entered the embassy grounds
to remove the flags and come back, but otherwise the chanting youth
stayed on top of the walls without storming the compound or damaging
The uproar over the film
also poses a new test for Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohammed
Morsi, who has yet to condemn the riot outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo
or say anything about the offending film. The protest was by mostly
The film was produced by a
California filmmaker who identifies himself as both American and
Israeli, though Israeli officials said Wednesday they had no record of
him as a citizen. The film was being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim
Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the
film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube. The video depicts
Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing
way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.
also were suspected of being behind the Benghazi attack. Advocating a
strict interpretation of Islam, they have bulldozed Sufi shrines and
mosques that house tombs in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and other
cities, including ancient sites dating back to 5,000 years ago.
ultraconservative groups like Ansar al-Shariah, or Supporters of
Shariah, have claimed responsibility for the attacks on the shrines,
declaring Sufi practices as "heretical."
Libya has been also hit by a
series of recent attacks that served as evidence of the deep and
persistent security vacuum in the country after the fall of Moammar
Gadhafi's regime, which was ousted by rebels backed by a NATO air
campaign. Many Libyans believe that unrest in their country is in part
the work of Gadhafi's loyalists who want to undermine efforts to rebuild
the country after last year's ruinous civil war.
Stevens was a career
diplomat who spoke Arabic and French and had already served two tours in
Libya, including running the office in Benghazi during the revolt
against Gadhafi. He was confirmed as ambassador to Libya by the Senate
earlier this year.
Before Tuesday, five U.S.
ambassadors had been killed in the line of duty, the last being Adolph
Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979, according to the State Department
The protests were sparked
by an obscure, two-hour movie titled "Innocence of Muslims," which came
to attention in Egypt after its trailer was dubbed into Arabic and
posted on YouTube.
Sam Bacile, a 56-year-old California real estate developer, said he wrote, produced and directed the movie.
Bacile told The Associated Press he was an Israeli Jew and an American citizen.
Israeli officials said
Wednesday they had not heard of Bacile and there was no record of him
being a citizen. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are
not permitted to share personal information with the media.
Bacile said he had not
anticipated such a furious reaction. Speaking by phone from an
undisclosed location, Bacile, who went into hiding Tuesday, remained
defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that he intended his film to be a
provocative political statement condemning the religion.
Bacile said he believes the
movie will help his native land by exposing Islam's flaws to the world.
"Islam is a cancer, period," he repeatedly said in a solemn, accented
Israel, however, sought to distance itself from Bacile.
"It's obvious we'll have to
be vigilant. Anything he did or said has nothing to do whatsoever with
Israel. He may claim what he wants. This was not done with or for or
through Israel." Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on