Wednesday, 12 September 2012

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Is Killed

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Is Killed
Clean Media Correspondent

Benghazi, Sept 12 (CMC) The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other American diplomats were killed when suspected Libyan religious extremists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday, sparking a security crisis across the North African country and raising tensions across the Middle East.
Libyan officials spent the night in a manhunt trying to find those responsible for the killings, which occurred when an angry armed mob attacked the diplomatic complex in an apparent protest against an anti-Islamic video created and produced by an American-Israeli real-estate developer. 
The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed when suspected Libyan religious extremists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday night, according to Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour. 
President Barack Obama in Washington condemned in the "strongest possible terms" the attack, saying the U.S. will work with the Libyan government to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. "Make no mistake, justice will be done,'' the president said, but he didn't elaborate.

A Libyan doctor who treated Ambassador Stevens said the diplomat died of severe asphyxiation and that he tried for 90 minutes to revive him. Ziad Abu Zeid said Wednesday that Mr. Stevens was brought to the Benghazi Medical Center by Libyans the night before, with no other Americans, and initially no one realized he was the U.S. ambassador. The doctor said Mr. Stevens had "severe asphyxia," apparently from smoke inhalation, causing stomach bleeding, but there were no other injuries.

The news of the killings broke as Americans were waking up Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the attack should "shock the conscience" of people of all faiths, but that it wouldn't alter U.S. policy in Libya. The "mission in Libya is noble and necessary … and will continue," she said from Washington. The U.S. also announced increased security measures for all U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide.

U.S. officials didn't immediately comment on the details of the deaths, or the reason for the unusually large diplomatic entourage to have been in Benghazi. It was unclear whether the bodies of the four Americans had been recovered. Ambassador Stevens, who is usually based in the capital Tripoli, apparently was visiting Benghazi ahead of the planned opening of an American cultural center there when the violence erupted Tuesday, according to a Libyan official.

U.S. officials said a U.S. Marine security team was en route to Libya, which will be able to supplement security at the embassy. Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams, or FAST, which typically number between 50 and 200, are stationed in the U.S. and other locations around the world. It isn't clear where the FAST unit headed to Libya was dispatched from.

There is one U.S. Navy warship near Libya and two others slightly further away, according to a U.S official. Defense officials said as of this morning there were no orders to move any warships to Libya to assist.

Libyan officials, many of whom led the rebel government based in Benghazi and worked with Mr. Stevens during that time, condemned the killings. The head of the new congress, Mohammed Magarief, apologized to the American public for the tragedy. The deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagour, called the killings "an attack on America, Libya and the free world."

By midday Wednesday, no one had been arrested for the violence or the deaths, and officials in Tripoli were scrambling to implement a response to what they admitted was a monumental security breach.

Libya's new government has struggled to impose its authority on a myriad of gangs and former rebel brigades that remain armed and act outside the law. New security officials have had mixed success in implementing a plan whereby former rebels would be disbanded from their old brigades and given jobs as part of the new national army, defense forces and border guards.

One witness to the consulate attack Tuesday night said that a handful of Libyan soldiers dressed in the uniform of the new national army were on patrol outside the U.S. diplomatic structure when the mob arrived, but that they were almost immediately overwhelmed.

The witness said the Libyan forces concentrated on evacuating Libyan civilians attending a private wedding on the same street as the consulate when the armed militants started opening fire. "There were many people there who were trying to get to safety," said the man, a Benghazi resident who declined to be named because he feared retaliation from the militants.

The militants—many of whom had long beards and wore the shortened dress common among fundamentalist Muslims—set fire to the consulate complex, and the several buildings inside the compound burned to the ground. 
Egyptian protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and replaced the flag with a black standard bearing an Islamic inscription, in protest of a film deemed offensive to the Prophet Muhammad. Matt Bradley has details on The News Hub.

A witness to the mob late Tuesday said that the Libyan protesters had identified themselves as members of Ansar al-Shariah, an armed brigade that follows the conservative religious Islam of some jihadis. Ansar delivered a statement early Wednesday denying that its members were behind the attack. But a man identified as a leader of the Ansar brigade told broadcaster Al Jazeera that its members took part in the Benghazi attack in response to the inflammatory film but that there wasn't an order for them to do so.

Regular Libyans lit up Twitter and Facebook throughout the day Wednesday to condemn the killings of the U.S. diplomats and plan demonstrations in the capital Tripoli and Benghazi against religious violence.

Political parties founded by fundamentalism Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood fared poorly in the country's first election after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, garnering a minority of seats in the new national congress, bucking a trend seen in other post-Arab Spring nations like Egypt and Tunisia.

However, the lack of centralized law and order has given radical groups space in which to work without fear of arrest.

The attack on the U.S. consulate was the second this year. In June, suspected Islamic militants detonated an improvised explosive device at the same compound. A Libyan guard was injured, but no Americans were harmed. In the spring, the International Committee for the Red Cross offices in Benghazi were also targeted.

Washington has long been leery of the radical Islamic fringe in Libya. The largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq waging battles against U.S. soldiers were from two towns in eastern Libya, and U.S. drones have monitored those locations since the Libyan uprising last year.

Ambassador Stevens, 52 years old, was both well-known and well-liked among Libyans. He had held two previous posts in Libya, as deputy chief of the U.S. mission between 2007 and 2009 and then as envoy to the Transitional National Council during the Libyan uprising in 2011, according to the State Department.

Mr. Stevens was born and raised in California and had been an international trade lawyer before joining the diplomatic corps in 1991. A fluent Arabic speaker, he previously held diplomatic postings in Jerusalem, Damascus and Cairo.

Mrs. Clinton's statement identified another of those killed in Benghazi as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer who was the father of two. The names of the remaining two diplomats were being withheld pending notification of their families, according to U.S. officials.

The violent protest in Benghazi erupted after a similar demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday evening by fundamentalist Muslims who were angered by a fringe online movie called "Innocence of Muslims," which was directed and produced by an Israeli-American real-estate developer.

The film's 52-year-old writer, director and producer, Sam Bacile, said that he wanted to showcase his view of Islam as a hateful religion. "Islam is a cancer," he said in a telephone interview from his home. "The movie is a political movie. It's not a religious movie."

Mr. Bacile said he raised $5 million from about 100 Jewish donors, whom he declined to identify. Working with about 60 actors and 45 crew members, he said he made the two-hour movie in three months last year in California.

The film has been promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans previously sparked deadly riots around the world. He said he was planning to show the trailer for Mr. Bacile's movie to his congregation.

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