US ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi attack

US ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi attack

US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff were killed as protesters angry over a film deemed offensive to Islam attacked the American consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Stevens and three consulate staff were killed during the protest, pan-Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera reported quoting Libya's interior ministry. The channel said the ambassador was paying a short visit to Benghazi when the consulate came under attack last night and he died of suffocation along with two US security personnel who were accompanying him.

It said another consulate employee, whose nationality could not immediately be confirmed, was also killed. Reports said hundreds of angry protesters brandishing assault weapons fired gunshots and attacked the US consulate with rocket propelled grenades in Benghazi as they clashed with the Libyan guards.

They overwhelmed and ran over the facility setting it ablaze. Islamists protesters also scaled the perimeter walls of the US embassy in Cairo and hurled down the American flag, replacing it with an Islamic banner.

These were the first such assaults on US diplomatic facilities in Libya and Egypt, and came at a time when both nations are in turmoil following the ouster of their longtime leaders Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak.

The sudden protest in both the countries were sparked over a film ridiculing Prophet Mohammed.

The Arabic channel quoted witnesses as saying that the attackers ripped the US flag and then looted the consulate before setting it afire. Earlier, Interior Ministry sources had said that rockets propelled grenades were fired at the consulate from the nearby areas as armed men, including ultraconservative Salafists, barricaded the street leading to the consulate.

The attack on the consulate in Benghazi came shortly after thousands of Egyptians stormed the US embassy in Cairo in protest over the film. A dozen men scaled the embassy wall and entered the premises to tore down the Star and Stripes and replaced it with a black Islamic flag, similar to one used by extreme Islamic groups.

Condemning the outrage, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was heartbroken over the attacks and confirmed that a US diplomat was killed. "As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack," Clinton said in a statement.

"In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide," she added. Clinton called Libyan President to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.

The Benghazi incident followed a protest in neighbouring Egypt where protesters surrounded the US embassy in Cairo, some of them climbing up the walls and tearing down the American flag, to protest the film by a US-based Coptic group. US officials were, however, reluctant to establish any link between the two incidents.

"We cannot confirm any connection between these incidents," a senior State Department official said in response to questions linking the two incidents. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland also confirmed the attack on Benghazi consulate.

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

Comments (+)