U.S. Ambassador Stevens killed in attack on consulate in Libya

BENGHAZI, LIBYA (BNO NEWS) -- Protesters angry about an online video considered offensive to Islam attacked U.S. diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt on Tuesday, killing U.S. Ambassador John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Libyan and U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Stevens died on Tuesday evening from injuries he sustained in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan port city of Benghazi, which served as the country's rebel capital least year during an eight-month-long civil war. There were conflicting reports whether he died as a result of a fire or in a rocket attack.

Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said Stevens died at a local hospital, though images from the scene showed the body of a man strongly resembling Stevens, indicating he may have died before he was taken to a hospital. Security sources told Al Jazeera that Stevens and two other Americans died of smoke inhalation.

U.S. President Barack Obama strongly condemned what he described as an "outrageous" attack. "(The victims) 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," he said in a written statement released by the White House.

Obama added: "Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss."

Obama said he directed his Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of diplomatic personnel in Libya, and to increase security at American 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," he added.

A White House official said Obama was informed of the situation in Libya by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon as he started a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. "The President was notified last night that Ambassador Stevens was unaccounted for and then notified again this morning about his tragic death," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

Clinton identified the second victim in the attack as Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. "Sean Smith was a husband and a father of two, who joined the Department ten years ago," she said in a statement. "Like Chris, Sean was one of our best. Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and most recently The Hague."

Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur also strongly condemned the attack in messages on his official Twitter account. "Amb. Stevens was a friend of Libya and we are shocked at the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi," he wrote. "I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere."

It is the first time in more than three decades that a U.S. Ambassador has been killed as a result of hostile action, according to the U.S. State Department historian's office. Adolph Dubs, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, was abducted by militants in February 1979 and later killed in a shootout between his abductors and police.

The protests in Libya and Egypt were sparked by a 14-minute English-language trailer for an amateur movie called "Innocence of Muslims". The movie, which cost more than $5 million to make and has 59 actors, depicts Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse. It also includes other insulting claims.

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