TRIPOLI, Libya – The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. He was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.
The uproar over the film also poses a new test for Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, who has yet to condemn the riot outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo or say anything about the offending film. The protest was by mostly ultraconservative Islamists.
The film was produced by a California filmmaker who identifies himself as both American and Israeli, though Israeli officials said Wednesday they had no record of him as a citizen. The film was being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube. The video depicts Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.
Ultraconservative Islamists also were suspected of being behind the Benghazi attack. Advocating a strict interpretation of Islam, they have bulldozed Sufi shrines and mosques that house tombs in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and other cities, including ancient sites dating back to 5,000 years ago.
According to reports, Stevens along with three other American security guards were attempting to assist others escape the impending attacks.
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Our prayers go out to the families of these victims and to the impact this occurrence will have on global relations.