Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three other embassy staff were killed trying to flee the U.S. Consulate during the Benghazi attack. Reuters confirmed the deaths after it was originally was announced that one unnamed U.S. official was killed during the attack. Reuters reports:
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.
This follows Muslim protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. President Barack Obama in a statement this morning condemned the attacks. “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”
“I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” President Obama stated.
Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was critical of President Obama’s initial handling of the crisis calling it “disgraceful” The Washington Post reports. “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Romney said. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
Iowa 1st Congressional District Candidate, Ben Lange, called for justice in a statement released this morning, “We stand united as Americans against these gutless attacks on our countrymen abroad and we offer our prayers and sympathies to the families of those who have lost their lives at the hands of evil. May justice be brought to bear swiftly and methodically on those who committed these cowardly acts.”
House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) also responded to the attacks in Libya and Cairo. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed in these outrageous and unwarranted attacks on our fellow American citizens. They served this great nation with honor and courage,” said Congressman Price. “In condemning this act of terror, we must also make clear to both our allies and our enemies that America will not tolerate acts of violence and terrorism that seek to disrupt the cause of freedom and to destroy lives. Now more than ever, America must show resolve and leadership both in our words and in our actions.
“Absent American leadership, the world will only become a far more dangerous place. At a time of great turmoil, we must reinforce our commitment to lead out front, not from behind. We must ensure we do all that we can to strengthen America’s relationships with our allies, like Israel, so they know, and those who might question our resolve know, that America will do all that is necessary to protect our way of life and secure peace. That is the level of leadership needed to ensure our nation remains the most powerful force for the defense of liberty,” Price said.
- Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that the attacks have the markings of Al Qaeda revenge. He said they could be linked to the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a top leader of the terrorist network, back in June.
- The Libyan Ambassador to the United States blamed the attack on the consulate in Benghazi on ex-Qaddafi forces.
- A Marine FAST team is headed to the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya to provide extra security. The consulate in Benghazi had no Marine presence which begs the question – why not?
- Obama apparently skipped out on his intelligence briefings last week.
- Mitt Romney provides a statement and Q&A session this morning on the attacks and defends his criticism of the Obama administration.