(BENGHAZI, Libya) — An American State Department employee was killed in Benghazi, Libya, Tuesday, when islamic extremists stormed the U.S. consulate.
Some reports have linked the attack in Libya to an apparently U.S.-produced film, but a senior U.S. official has said the extremist group claiming responsibility for the attack did not mention the movie as a motivation. Still, some U.S. officials fear the film is the reason for the clash at the consulate.
Anger over the film that some believe insults the Prophet Muhammad led to protests in Cairo, where demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy, took down the American flag and replaced it with a black flag.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement released Tuesday night. “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.”
Libyan President Mohammed Yussef Magariaf promised to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in the country, condemned the assault on the embassy and pledged his government’s full cooperation, Clinton said.
In Cairo, dozens of protesters scaled the embassy walls and took down the flag from a pole in the courtyard. After trying unsuccessfully to burn it, they ripped it apart and replaced it with a black flag bearing Arabic writing. Reports that the black flag was from al Qaeda were not confirmed.
Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday the United States was working with Egyptian security to restore order.
“This came up pretty quickly,” she said. “[It was a] relatively modest group of people and the Egyptian security was caught off-guard.”
David Linfield, an embassy spokesman, said that no guns were involved. “No one fired,” he said.
According to The Atlantic and Egyptian media, the movie is called “Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims” and was apparently produced in the U.S.
Egyptian media also reported that two Egyptians from the Christian minority Coptic group had helped with the movie. Clips in Arabic and English have been released on YouTube.
In a statement, the U.S. embassy said it condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, jumped on the embassy’s statement with one of his own.
“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,” he 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.”
Clinton, however, said anger over a movie is no excuse for violence.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” she said. “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and Tim Hume, CNN