(BENGHAZI, Libya) — Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died on Tuesday when Libyan militants stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Stevens, 52, was killed as 20 gun-wielding attackers stormed the U.S. consulate, angry about an American-made film that depicts Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and womanizer. The attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate, Libya’s Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said at a news conference in Benghazi.
Nearly a dozen Americans were inside the consulate at the time, guarded only by Libyan security. For nearly 20 minutes, the Libyan guards exchanged fire with the attackers, who hurled a firebomb inside.
Stevens was killed by injuries he sustained during the attack, according to a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday, which also identified Foreign Service Information Management Officer and Air Force veteran Sean Smith as among those killed during the attack. Two more Americans were killed although their identities have not been released pending notification of their families.
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,” President Obama said in a statement Wednesday. “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,” the statement continued.
Stevens, who was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served two tours of duty in Libya, was nominated by President Obama to be the ambassador to Libya early this year. His term of appointment began on May 22, and he was in Libya during the revolution, serving as the Amercan representavie to the transitional national council.
The U.S. is now evacuating all Americans working with the State Department from Benghazi. The U.S. is also bracing for more attacks in the Middle East, and considers this an extremely dangerous situation in the region right now.
Anger over the movie that some believe insulted the Prophet Mohammad also provoked protests in Cairo Tuesday, where demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy, took down the American flag and replaced it with a black flag.
A senior U.S. official told ABC News the State Department is on alert throughout the region and fear there could be more attacks to come.
The group that attacked the consulate is called Ansar al Sharia, according to Libyan sources. The group has claimed responsibility for the attack but did not mention the movie as motivation.
“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.
According to The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal and Egyptian media, the movie is called Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims and has been promoted by Terry Jones, the controversial Florida preacher whose Koran burning in March 2010 led to the deadly violence in Afghanistan.
Jones said Tuesday in a statement that the movie was actually titled Innocence of Muslims and was intended not to attack Muslims, but to show the “destructive ideology of Islam.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Lauren del Valle, CNN