News Roundup: US Ambassador to Libya among others killed in attack

The following article is a “NewsRoundUp” where an international news story is highlighted and is reported by various accredited news agencies and their respective websites. The subject of this “News RoundUp”: is  The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.

REUTERSGunmen had attacked and burned the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, late on Tuesday evening, killing one U.S. consular official. The building was evacuated.

The Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.

“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them,” the official in Benghazi told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington. U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Security officials will be considering whether the two attacks were coordinated.

Libyan deputy prime minister Mustafa Abu Shagour condemned the killing of the U.S. diplomats as a cowardly act.

The consular official had died after clashes between Libyan security forces and Islamist militants around the consulate building. Looters raided the empty compound and some onlookers took pictures after calm returned.

Security Staff overwhelmed

FRANCE24.comWitnesses in Benghazi reported seeing attackers firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate as they clashed with Libyans hired to guard the facility. Wanis al-Sharef, an Interior Ministry official in Benghazi said security staff did little to protect the compound after being heavily outnumbered by the mob.

In Benghazi, Reuters reported looters raiding the empty U.S. consulate’s compound, walking off with desks, chairs and washing machines.

The eastern city of Benghazi was the birthplace of the revolution that overthrew former dictator Colonel Muammar Gadaffi last year. In recent months it has witnessed sporadic outbreaks of violence, including attacks on Western targets. Many of the armed groups involved in the revolution have refused to lay down their weapons.

Speaking from Washington DC, FRANCE 24’s Philip Crowther said: “This is clearly an ongoing situation in Benghazi… There is a real fear this might get out of hand in other places.”

Earlier in Cairo nearly 3,000 demonstrators, most of them hard-line Islamist supporters of the Salafist movement, had gathered at the embassy, before several managed to scale the wall and tear down the American flag.

The violence in Benghazi and Cairo coincided with the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over the film “Innocence of Muslims” which ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. The movie was made by American Israeli Sam Becile, a 52-year-old real-estate developer from California who told the Wall Street Journal that “Islam is a cancer”.

Excerpts from the film, which has been dubbed into Arabic, were posted on YouTube. It depicts Mohammad as a philanderer who approved of child sex abuse and contains other insulting claims.

 Obama condemns killing of US Ambassador to Libya. President Barack Obama on Wednesday strongly condemned the killing of the United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, in a rocket attack on the U.S. Consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday.

He called the attack “outrageous,” and confirmed that four Americans, including Stevens, were killed. Stevens was the first US Ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979.

“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,”  US Preseident Barack Obama said in a statement

“Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” Obama said.

The other three victims were American security staff, said a contractor working at the mission, who asked not to be named for security reasons.

He said he saw all four bodies on the street Wednesday morning.

An “angry crowd” marched on the consulate on Tuesday, angry about an online film considered offensive to Islam, Libya’s Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said Wednesday. The U.S. mission in Egypt was also attacked Tuesday in response to the film.

Al-Sharif said that consulate security staff opened fire when they heard gunfire outside the mission.

“This led to more anger and this is when the consulate was stormed,” he said, suggesting that there were elements loyal to the regime of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi aiming to create chaos among the protesters.

“Criminals managed to get in and they burned and ransacked the consulate,” he said.

The U.S. mission is very badly damaged, the contractor said.

Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister condemns attacks, calls them “barbaric acts”

BBC News: AfricaThe killings were also condemned by the Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur.

“I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere,” he said on the social networking site Twitter.

Reports say a militia known as the Ansar al-Sharia brigade was involved in the attack, but the group has denied the claim, the BBC’s Rana Jawad in Tripoli says.

Our correspondent says many people are still armed following the conflict that overthrew Col Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Analysts say the attack will raise serious new concerns about stability in the country and the ability of the new Libyan administration to maintain security.

Other countries will be wondering whether their consular staff are safe in Libya, they say.

The film that sparked the demonstration is said to have been produced by a 52-year-old US citizen from California named Sam Bacile, and promoted by an expatriate Egyptian Copt.

Obituary: J Christopher Stevens

BBC News: US & CanadaIn a statement to a US Senate committee after his nomination as ambassador, Mr Stevens wrote of his “extraordinary honour” at being selected for the post.

Mr Stevens had held two previous posts in Libya, as deputy chief of the US mission between 2007 and 2009 and then as envoy to the Transitional National Council (TNC) during the Libyan uprising in 2011, according to the US state department.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also paid tribute to Mr Stevens’s “two decades of dedication to advancing closer ties with the people of the Middle East and North Africa”.

“Chris was committed to advancing America’s values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger,” Ms Clinton said.

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