The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed after protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad stormed the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi.
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
“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,” the statement said.
“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,” Obama said.
Earlier, three named Libyan officials told the AP that Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters were firing gunshots and rocket-propelled grenades.
The three Libyan officials cited by the AP hold senior security positions in Benghazi. They are deputy interior minister for eastern Libya, Wanis al-Sharaf; Benghazi security chief Abdel-Basit Haroun; and Benghazi city council and security official Ahmed Bousinia.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Stevens and the other Americans were not immediately clear.
A large mob stormed the U.S. consulate Tuesday night, with gunmen firing their weapons, said Wanis al-Sharef, an Interior Ministry official in Benghazi. A witness said attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate as they clashed with Libyans hired to guard the facility.
Outnumbered by the crowd, Libyan security forces did little to stop them, al-Sharef said.
The crowd overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said.
“I heard nearly 10 explosions and all kinds of weapons. It was a terrifying day,” a witness who refused to give his name because he feared retribution told the AP.
Stevens was typically based in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, but was apparently visiting Benghazi for the opening of an American cultural center there, the Journal said.