Two US State Department Employees Killed in Libyan Consulate Attack
(BENGHAZI, Libya) — Two American State Department employees were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday after militants stormed the U.S. consulate, angry about an American-made film that depicts Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and womanizer.
Anger over the film that some believe insults the Prophet Muhammad also provoked protests in Cairo on 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. senior official told ABC News they are on alert throughout the region and fear there could be more attacks to come. One of the American State Department employees likely died of smoke inhalation Tuesday from the fire at the consulate, according to the U.S official.
The death of the second employee was confirmed on Wednesday, according to the U.S. official. There is no word yet on how that employee died.
There were about 20 attackers with small arms who stormed the consulate. There was a firefight with Libyan security officers guarding the consulate, according to the U.S. official. One of the buildings was completely destroyed by fire set by the militants.
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.
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 on Tuesday that 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, 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 film was actually titled Innocence of Muslims and was intended not to attack Muslims but to show the “destructive ideology of Islam.”
“The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad,” he said.
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 Tuesday, 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 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