By ROBERT BURNS
AP National Security Writer
U.S. officials say some 50 Marines are being sent to Libya to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in the aftermath of an attack in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three American members of his staff.
The Marines are members of an elite group known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, whose role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to reinforce security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide.
The officials who disclosed the plan to send the Marines spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
U.S. to send Marines to Libya to bolster security: official
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is dispatching a Marine fleet anti-terrorist security team to boost security in Libya after an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
No further details were immediately available.
Late on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. diplomats were killed in a rocket attack on their car, Libyan and U.S. officials said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film that was said to have mocked the prophet of Islam.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said he directed his 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.”
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott)
Killing of U.S. ambassador, 3 staffers condemned by Libyan officials
September 12, 2012 6:52 am
CAIRO — Senior officials in Libya on Wednesday condemned the killing of the U.S. ambassador to the country and three other Americans by armed protesters in a furor over an anti-Muslim video.
The mob sacked the U.S. Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three U.S. government employees. The attack came hours after a demonstration in Cairo, where protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy and pulled down the American flag in anger over the video, produced in the United States, which protesters said mocked the prophet Muhammad.
“This is a criminal act that will not go unpunished. This is part of a series of cowardice acts by supporters of the former regime who want to undermine Libya’s revolution,” Prime Minister Abdurrahim Keib told reporters.
Keib said the details of the attack were under investigation.
Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf apologized for the deaths and vowed that justice would be served.
“We refuse that our nation’s lands be used for cowardice and revengeful acts. It is not a victory for God’s Sharia or his prophet for such disgusting acts to take place,” Magariaf said. “We apologize to the United States, the people of America, and the entire world. We and the American government are standing on the same side, we stand on the same side against outlaws.”
The killing of Stevens and the other U.S. personnel is a severe test to the relationship between Libya and the West after an air campaign by the United States and its NATO allies helped Libya’s current leadership topple Moammar Kadafi’s regime in 2011. Even as NATO aircraft targeted Kadafi’s military forces, concerns were raised regarding the radical Muslim element hidden in Libyans’ revolt against the longtime strongman.
Early Wednesday morning, President Obama released a statement: “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. 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.”
Obama concluded his statement saying, “The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.”
A White House official said national security advisor Tom Donilon first briefed the president on the violence in Benghazi on Tuesday afternoon, at the top of a weekly meeting with the Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
The president was updated throughout the evening, and notified late Tuesday that Stevens was unaccounted for. Obama learned Wednesday that Stevens was confirmed dead Wednesday morning, the official said.
In a statement Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said one of the other dead was Sean Smith, an information management officer with the State Department and a 10-year veteran of the foreign service who had served in Iraq, South Africa, Canada and the Netherlands. He was a husband and father of two, the statement said.
U.S. officials have yet to identify the other victims.
Wanis al-Sharif, Libya’s deputy minister of the interior, told the Associated Press that Stevens and three others had died as the crowd torched the consulate in Benghazi hours after demonstrators scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in protest over the anti-Muslim video. A Twitter message from Libya’s deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abu Shagur, condemned the death of Stevens and the other American personnel killed in the attack.
The protesters in Benghazi set fire to the consulate and fired guns into the air in protest over the film, according to Reuters reporters on the scene. Looters reportedly grabbed desks, chairs and even washing machines from the empty compound.
Egyptian protesters had earlier gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in protest over a video that they said mocked the prophet Muhammad, claiming it had been made by Egyptian Coptic immigrants in the U.S.
The Cairo protesters pulled down the U.S. flag, and in its place raised a black flag that read: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet” before Egyptian security forces sought to tame the crowd.
As night fell, protesters continued to gather outside the embassy in one of the biggest demonstrations in the city since the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government early last year. Security forces surrounded the embassy compound to prevent protesters from again storming it, though some demonstrators remained on the wall, waving black flags.
As many as 2,000 demonstrators rallied outside the embassy in a gathering called by the conservative Islamic Salafist movement.
Before the rally, the private Al Nas television channel, run by Salafists, played some of the video posted on YouTube, which a host and a commentator said insulted Islam. The video shown on the channel refers to Muhammad and his followers as “child lovers.” It also shows the prophet speaking to a supposed Muslim donkey, asking him whether he loves women.
The channel’s enraged host and a commentator then demanded to know how Islam could be treated in such a debasing way.
The video has been promoted online by Florida preacher Terry Jones, whose 2011 burning of a Koran triggered riots in Afghanistan. In a statement, Jones called the assault on the embassy in Egypt proof that Muslims “have no tolerance for anything outside of Muhammad.”
Nader Bakar, a spokesman of the Al Nour party, the political arm of the Salafist movement, denied any involvement in the uproar.
“We were there for a couple of hours in a peaceful protest,” said Bakar, who had called for the demonstration the day before. “We are against this movie being made to defame the prophet. The U.S. Embassy understood this, and they issued a statement condemning hateful rhetoric.”
The embassy in Cairo published a statement online saying, “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. … Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
The mood during the protests at the embassy was a reminder of the volatility of politics in post-Mubarak Egypt, where, more than ever, rumor can stir people into a frenzy. Suspicion of involvement by Coptic Christians shows how tension between Muslims and Christians still burns. Christians make up about 10% of Egypt’s population.
“Many of the people here haven’t even seen the movie,” said Mostafa Nageh, a youth who attended the protest. “Most people came out to protest just because they heard that a video insulting the prophet was made in the U.S.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the breach of the embassy wall “came up pretty quickly” and involved a “relatively modest group of people, but caught probably us and the Egyptian security outside by some surprise.”
US Ambassador murdered as extremists on all sides win, again
The murder of the US Ambassador to Libya yesterday and a raucous protest in Cairo, all over a movie deemed offensive, recall the widespread violence during the Danish cartoon controversy.
By Dan Murphy
posted September 12, 2012 at 9:51 am EDT
Christian Science Monitor
The murder of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens yesterday as an unopposed crowd ransacked and torched the consulate in Benghazi, along with a raucous protest at the US embassy in Cairo, are events that are going to reverberate for months to come. That the violence came on the anniversary of the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington was not a coincidence.
Mr. Stevens was killed along with three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city, in protests that used as their pretext a hitherto unknown amateur film designed to insult the prophet Muhammad. Stevens was the first US ambassador murdered in the line of duty since Ambassador Adolph Dubs was assassinated in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1979. Early unconfirmed reports from Benghazi indicated the other dead Americans were Marines assigned to diplomatic security.
The ginned-up controversy over the film, which was propelled to violence by a rabble-rousing Egyptian television channel that presented the film as the work of the US government, recalls the protests over cartoons depicting Muhammad published in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper in 2005.
Then, there were violent protests across the Middle East over the exercise of free speech in a Western nation. In some ways, it was the beginning of an era of manufactured outrage, with a group of fringe hate-mongers in the West developing a symbiotic relationship with radical clerics across the East. The Westerners deliberately cause offense by describing Islam as a fundamentally violent religion, and all too often mobs in Muslim-majority states oblige by engaging in violence.
Terry Jones, a fringe evangelical Florida preacher, has been one of the instigators on the US end. In the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, he basked in the publicity of a planned Quran-burning and the threats and violence that ensued. Mr. Jones is involved in the latest manufactured controversy as well, since in the past week he’s drawn attention to the deliberately insulting film, financed by a self-described Jewish-Israeli real estate developer Sam Bacile living in California.
Jones and Mr. Bacile cannot be blamed for the violence and death of the ambassador. That blame goes to the perpetrators. Who whipped them up? Ground zero for bringing attention to the movie in Egypt appears to be Al-Nas TV, a religious channel owned by Saudi Arabian businessman Mansour bin Kadsa. A TV show presented by anti-Christian, anti-Semitic host Khaled Abdullah before the violence showed what he said were clips from the film, which he insisted was being produced by the United States and Coptic (Egyptian) Christians.
The clip, dubbed from the US film into Arabic, was certainly inflammatory. It shows Muhammad as a grinning fool, talking to a donkey and dubbing it “the first Muslim animal.” Max Fisher found a 14-minute video of the movie in English that is even worse, one badly acted anti-Islamic caricature after another, with all Muslims portrayed as cartoonishly violent and depraved child rapists, and a running “joke” that constantly calls Muhammad “the bastard of the unknown father.” The frankly disgusting clip is included below.
But the filmmakers are among the least responsible for the chain reaction that followed. More responsible is Al-Nas, which turned it into an anti-Christian propaganda exercise of its own. Then there are national leaders. The US embassy in Cairo is nestled in the usually heavily-guarded Cairo neighborhood of Garden City, with security checkpoints in a half-mile perimeter before you can reach the embassy walls. Yet a group of protesters were not only allowed in, but allowed to scale the wall of the US embassy, stealing the US flag flying there and ripping it to shreds after replacing it with an Islamic flag. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, now Egypt’s president, has so far been silent on the total security failure at the embassy.
Events in Benghazi may be more forgivable from a security standpoint, given the turmoil of post-Qaddafi Libya and the general incompetence of the country’s emerging security institutions. But video of the assault on the consulate there shows no signs of any security effort at all, and the results were pure tragedy.
That the US ambassador was murdered on a visit to Benghazi is part of a sad irony that will probably be played up in the US presidential race in the days ahead. The city was the center of the uprising against Qaddafi, and was saved from being overrun by Qaddafi’s forces in March 2011 by US, French, UK, and other Western countries that pounded his armored column from the air. I was in Benghazi on the night the UN Security Council authorized force against Qaddafi, and witnessed the first cheering crowds I’d ever seen in the Middle East waving American flags.
But many Libyans are not just devout in their faith, but jingoistic in their approach, and eastern Libya has seen its share of religious violence. In February 2006, a mob attacked the Italian consulate in Benghazi after an Italian far-right politician wore a t-shirt with one of the Muhammad cartoons and burned it to the ground. Events in Benghazi are a reminder that gratitude in international politics is a short-lived phenomenon that decisions should never be based on.
Libyan deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif told a press conference in Tripoli that Qaddafi loyalists were responsible for the attack, which involved a well-armed militia, though he admitted to government security failings. Is he right? There are plenty of armed Islamist groups in the area who fought against Qaddafi who could have carried out the attack, and the 2006 attack on the Italian consulate developed into a general anti-Qaddafi protest, with many of the figures involved in the uprising against Qaddafi in 2011 present at the 2006 attack.
So far, there is no broader violence. But that could change.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, a man whose power is entirely owed to the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO allies to install him and by the blood of the thousands of US, UK ,and other foreign nationals who have defended his government, wanted to make sure that Afghans were aware of the movie. His government issued a statement calling the film “inhuman and abusive.” Could there be attacks on US troops or foreign staff over this in Afghanistan? That’s sadly possible.
On April 2011, roughly 20 United Nations staffers were killed in the northern Afghan city of Mazir-e-Sharif after a compound was overrun by Afghans angry at Jones’s first publicized Quran burning. In February and March of this year, six US soldiers were killed by Afghan soldiers and police in the aftermath of US soldiers dumping Qurans into a burn pit at Baghram airbase.
US condemns killing of top envoy to Libya over film by: John Lyons, Middle East
Correspondent From: The Australian September 13, 2012 12:00AM
THE United States ambassador to Libya and three US officials have been killed after militiamen stormed their consulate in response to a US-produced film about the Prophet Mohammed.
The ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was reported to have suffocated after gunmen attacked the consulate with grenades and then stormed it.
Mr Stevens, 52, had been chosen by President Barack Obama to represent US interests as Libya rebuilt itself after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. He was a fluent Arabic speaker.
The US confirmed last night that Mr Stevens and the three other officials were killed.
Mr Obama said he strongly condemned “the outrageous attacks’ and had directed his administration to provide all necessary resources for facilities in Libya and to reinforce security at US embassies around the world.
Mr Obama said Mr Stevens had been a “courageous and exemplary representative” of the US.
In the attack in Benghazi, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades into the compound, which led to the local security staff fleeing their guard posts.
It appears that Mr Stevens and other embassy staff escaped by car from the consulate but were then attacked by militiamen outside the compound.
In neighbouring Egypt, protesters stormed the US embassy and tore down the US flag, replacing it with an Islamic flag.
The protests were in response to the release on the internet of a home-made film, Innocence of Muslims. The film, made by Sam Becile, a 52-year-old property developer from California, portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a philanderer who approved of sex with children.
Under Islam, any depiction of the Prophet Mohammed is forbidden but such a provocative depiction has angered many in the Muslim world.
Although the film was made earlier this year, it has suddenly caused outrage in Egypt and Libya because it has just been dubbed into Arabic and posted on the internet.
Reports suggested the Benghazi attack may have been the work of Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia.
While there were conflicting reports, the group issued a statement earlier this year sayingit did not believe in the elections being held following Gaddafi’s demise.
It told the BBC it believed in Sharia law and that the spate of bombings in Libya this year had been carried out by “Western spies.”
Benghazi was the birthplace of the uprising against the Gaddafi regime last year.
However, in recent months its has become highly dangerous, with enormous amounts of weapons in the hands of both groups and individuals.
A strong anti-Western sentiment has arisen. A British embassy convoy was attacked, although the ambassador was not in it at the time, and a UN convoy was also targeted.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US “was heartbroken by this terrible loss”.
“Some have thought to justify this vicious behaviour as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet,” she said.
“The US 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 justification for violent acts of this kind.”
The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said he was “appalled” by the attack on the consulate.
“There is no justification for such an attack and the appalling death of a US official,” he said.
In the wake of the fall of Gaddafi, virtually none of the weapons used in the uprisings have been handed back to authorities. This is despite a campaign by the new government. Various tribal and feudal militia groups control different areas and the government in Tripoli has been unable to establish control over many areas.
The US was an important part of the campaign to bring down the Gaddafi regime.
Although France and Britain led the NATO bombing of Gaddafi’s military facilities, the US was a key factor in ensuring the UN Security Council approved the no-fly-zone over Libya.
This resolution meant the coalition had the approval to attack Gaddafi’s military facilities across Libya. This campaign went on for more than eight months and was decisive in weakening Gaddafi’s regime to the point that it fell.