|Late US Ambassador Christopher Stephens (right), with
NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil
According to the Reuters Report (September 12, 2012):
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from a consulate building in Benghazi, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.
Gunmen had attacked and set fire to the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, late on Tuesday evening as another assault was mounted on the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
The California-born ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw.
“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets in their direction,” a Libyan official in Benghazi told Reuters. Airport sources said the bodies were due to be flown from Benghazi to Tripoli.
The attack was believed to have been carried out by Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-style Sunni Islamist group that has been active in Benghazi, a Libyan security official said. Witnesses said the mob also included tribesmen, militia and other gunmen.
The attack raised questions about the future U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya, relations between Washington and Tripoli, the unstable security situation in post-Gaddafi Libya and whether more protests might take place in the Muslim world.
The film portrayed Mohammad as a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake. In one clip posted on YouTube, Mohammad was shown in an apparent sexual act with a woman. For many Muslims it is blasphemous even to show a depiction of the Prophet.
U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration supported the Libyan insurgency with funds, weapons and training, branded the killing an “outrageous attack” and ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide.
The consular officials were killed after heavy clashes between Libyan security forces and Islamist militants around the consulate building. Looters raided the empty compound and some onlookers took pictures after calm returned.
“The Libyan security forces came under heavy fire and we were not prepared for the intensity of the attack,” said Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee.
On Wednesday morning, the compound in Benghazi stood empty, with passers-by freely walking in to take a look at the damage.