President Barack Obama confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi.
"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi," Obama said in a statement released early Wednesday morning confirming the deaths.
"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation," Obama added during remarks made with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday.
"We will not waiver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done," he said, calling for all Americans to "carry on their memory and continue their work seeking a stronger America."
Stevens and his three colleagues were killed Tuesday night in an attack on the consulate by armed Islamist militiamen enraged over an American film deemed insulting to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
News reports said the militiamen were armed with rockets and grenades. Video footage and photographs of the U.S. consulate show the building was badly damaged by fire and artillery fire.
Stevens, a career diplomat who had only been in the post for three months, previously served as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council and as Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya since before the uprising against former ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
Many Libyans tweeted their sorrow over the death of the ambassador, who was a well-known supporter of Libya's drive for freedom and efforts to establish a sound democracy.
Dr. Mustafa Abushagur, interim Deputy Prime Minister of Libya, tweeted, "Amb. Stevens was a friend of Libya and we are shocked at the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi."
"I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere," he added.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also hailed Stevens as a great diplomat and friend to Libya.
"Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States," Obama said in his statement. "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."
"As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi," Clinton said, adding, "He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation."
Clinton also confirmed the death of consulate worker Sean Smith, a ten-year State Department staffer who had served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal and the Hague. He left behind a wife and two children.
Smith was also reportedly a well-known player of the multiplayer role-playing game EVE Online. Fellow gamer "the Mittani" said in a blog post Smith was "in situ to provide IT services for the consulate, which meant he was on the net all the time, hanging out with us on Jabber as usual and talking about internet spaceship games."
Known by the handle "Vile Rat," the Mittani said Smith told his fellow online gamers he assumed "we don't die tonight. We saw one of our 'police' that guard the compound taking pictures" after midnight yesterday.
In addition to confirming the deaths, the president said "we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants" while also working to respect all forms of religious expression.
The film against which the Libyans were rioting was produced by Sam Bacile, a 52-year-old U.S. citizen from California, and was promoted by an expatriate Egyptian Coptic Christian.
Media reports indicated both men had anti-Islamic views. After an Arabic-translated trailer of the film was posted on YouTube, outrage among Muslims spread across the globe, with the worst rioting and demonstrations taking place outside the U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt.
A massive demonstration was held outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier on Tuesday to protest the film. During the demonstration, protesters managed to enter the embassy compound, tear down the American flag and replace it with an Islamic banner. No causalities were reported.
Subsequently, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement strongly condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."
"We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others," the statement added.
Going ahead, Obama signaled 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."
by RTT Staff Writer
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