WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – The American ambassador to Libya and three other diplomatic staff members died on Sept. 11 in an attack by an armed mob on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the interior ministry said on Sept. 12.
Witnesses said the mob looted the consulate before setting it on fire. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials died in the blaze.
The other staff members “were evacuated and are safe and sound,” Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said.
According to the Interior Ministry’s Security Commission, rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the consulate from a nearby farm.
“I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere,” Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur tweeted.
Stevens had been “a friend of Libya”, he said.
“We present our apologies to the United States, the American people and the entire world for what happened,” Mohamed al-Magariaf, president of Libya’s General National Congress, told reporters in the capital.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed the deaths on the morning of Sept. 12.
“I had the privilege of swearing in Chris [Stevens] for his post in Libya only a few months ago,” she said. “He spoke eloquently about his passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people. … As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation.”
She added in oral remarks that U.S.-Libya relations would not be impacted.
“The friendship between our two countries born out of shared struggle will not be another casualty of this attack,” she added.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack and promised enhanced security.
“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,” 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.”
Speaking at the White House, Obama thanked Libyans for the role they played in responding to the attack.
“Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside the Americans,” he said. “Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety and they carried Ambassador Stevens’ body to the hospital, where we tragically learned he had died. It’s especially tragic Chris Stevens died in Benghazi, because it’s a city he helped to save.”
The protest erupted over an independent film, Innocence of Muslims, deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed. The Benghazi incident came a few hours after an attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian police managed to restore order without resorting to violence.
The United Nations condemned the Benghazi attack on Sept. 12.
“The United Nations rejects defamation of religion in all forms, but there is no justification for violence such as occurred in Benghazi,” U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the U.N. Security Council during a regularly scheduled briefing on Libya.
“This attack in no way serves the interests of the people or the Libyan authorities and cannot be considered as a defense of Islam,” Libya’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said. “This attack gravely damages the image of Islam.”
The Brazilian government condemned the attacks and manifested its “solidarity” with the Obama administration.
“The Brazilian government learned of the attacks with consternation,” the Ministry of Foreign Relations said in a statement on Sept. 12. “Brazil rejects vehemently the attacks and reminds countries of the obligation [to respect] the immunity of diplomatic foreign missions and their consulates.”
The Brazilian government also expressed “solidarity with the deceased diplomats and their families and with the United States government… .”
In a statement, the Paraguayan government called for those responsible to be brought to justice. “The [Paraguayan] Ministry of Foreign Relations, while reiterating its most forceful rejection of these acts of violence and intolerance, asks … Libya to impose a just punishment on those responsible.”
The Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations also condemned the attack and manifested its solidarity with the victims through a statement on its website.
In a statement, Argentina’s Foreign Relations Ministry said, “President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the Argentine people express their most firm condemnation of [the Sept. 11] attacks […] and regret the death of the [U.S.] ambassador in Libya, Christopher Stevens, and other American and Libyan citizens.”
Through a statement, the Ecuadoran government said “it expresses its condolences to the American people and rejects any circumstances that put human lives at risk.”