Four Dead, Including US Ambassador, in US Embassy Attack in Libya

The blaze at the US consulate in Benghazi after it was attacked by an armed group on September 11, 2012. (Photograph: Reuters/Esam Al-Fetori)

Four Dead, Including US Ambassador, in US Embassy Attack in Libya

Outraged crowd stormed consulate building in Benghazi; Four US officials reported dead

Update: Four US officials were killed in Libya, including the US Ambassador Chris Stevens, following rockets attacks against the US consulate building in the city of Benghazi.

The Washington Postreports:

Wire services and reporters on the ground said Libyan government officials confirmed that Stevens and the others were fleeing the consulate when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their vehicle. Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Bengazi said the bodies of the dead had been taken to the Benghazi airport.

Stevens, a longtime Middle East hand in the State Department, was named ambassador to Libya in May. He had worked in Libya for a number of years, both before and after the fall of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. The other dead were not identified in reports by Reuters, CNN, al-Jazeera and others.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed late Tuesday that "one of our State Department officers was killed," but did not identify the victim. Early Wednesday morning, a senior administration official said information would be released shortly.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi," Clinton said in an earlier statement. She said she had called Libyan President Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf "to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya."

The Guardian (providing ongoing coverage here) summarizes the course of events:

Protesters - believed to be mainly Islamists - stormed the US embassy in Cairo [on Tuesday], climbing the walls and hoisting a flag with an Islamic inscription. They were protesting against an obscure Islamophobic film produced in the United States. An extract from the film had been posted on the internet.

Armed militants in Libya, apparently prompted by the Egyptian protest, then attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, setting it on fire. One American was killed during that attack.

Latest information for our correspondent in Libya is that the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, went to the consulate this morning to inspect the damage. His car was reportedly attacked, killing him and two bodyguards.

Earlier reporting:

Reports late on Tuesday said that one US consulate staff member was killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi following the storming of the building by angry protesters enraged about reports of an amateur film produced in the US by expatriate Egyptian Coptic Christians insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Similar angry protests also occurred outside the US embassy building in Cairo, Egypt earlier in the day.

CNN reports:

The Libyan government has notified the United States that an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was killed Tuesday, a State Department official told CNN.

The State Department does not have independent confirmation of the death, the official said. The nationality of the worker was not immediately clear.

Earlier Tuesday, a group of militants attacked the consulate, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"We are working with the Libyans now to secure the compound," Nuland said. "We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission."

Members of a radical Islamist group had been protesting at the consulate, a freelance journalist working for CNN in Benghazi said.

Al-Jazeera reports that the "armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in what they say was a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam's Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt's capital."

Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington, added:

...the State Department had not yet confirmed the death of the consulate employee in Benghazi, but the State Department said it was still securing the consulate area with the help of Libyan security forces.

Suleiman El-Dressi, Al Jazeera's producer in Benghazi, said, "A group of people calling themselves the 'Islamic law supporters' heard the news that there will be an American movie insulting the Prophet."

"One they heard this, they came out of their military garrison and went into the streets calling upon people to gather and go ahead to attack the American consulate in Benghazi.

Al-Jazeera video from Cairo:

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