US ambassador to Libya, 3 American staff members killed in attack
Published September 12, 2012
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters, angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad, were firing gunshots and rocket-propelled grenades.
"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," President Obama said in a statement Wednesday morning. "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 said he's directed the administration to provide "all necessary resources" to support security for U.S. personnel in Libya and to increase security at diplomatic offices around the world.
"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.
Obama called Stevens "a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States" who "selflessly served our country and the Libyan people" throughout the Libyan revolution.
"His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice," the president said.
The State Department identified one of the other three Americans killed as Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, a husband and father of two who had worked for the State Department for 10 years. The U.S. government is still notifying the next of kin for the other two individuals killed, and has not identified them.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Stevens as a passionate and dedicated diplomat who had devoted himself to the transition in post-Qaddafi Libya.
"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 said.
Stevens was appointed as ambassador to Libya in May 2012.
He served as a special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council during the revolution in 2011, and as the deputy chief of mission from 2007 to 2009. Originally from California, Stevens was an international trade lawyer before joining the Foreign Service in the early 1990s. He also served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps from 1983 to 1985, teaching English in Morocco.
U.S. officials remain on alert for violence at other diplomatic posts.
Hours before the Benghazi attack, hundreds of mainly ultraconservative Islamist protesters in Egypt marched to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Cairo, gathering outside its walls and chanting against the movie and the U.S. Most of the embassy staff had left the compound earlier because of warnings of the upcoming demonstration.
Dozens of protesters then scaled the embassy walls, and several went into the courtyard and took down the American flag from a pole.
They brought it back to the crowd outside, which tried to burn it, but failing that tore it apart. The protesters on the wall then raised on the flagpole a black flag with a Muslim declaration of faith, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet." The flag, similar to the banner used by Al Qaeda, is commonly used by ultraconservatives around the region.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Algiers was warning Americans in the country to avoid non-essential travel amid calls for more protests after the Libya attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Anti-Islam Filmmaker In Hiding In Calif. After Attacks
September 12, 2012An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding after his movie attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, where the U.S. ambassador was killed, along with three American members of his staff.
Speaking by phone Tuesday from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.
Protesters angered over Bacile's film opened fire on and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Libyan officials said Wednesday that Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed Tuesday night when 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.
In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.
"This is a political movie," said Bacile. "The U.S. lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're fighting with ideas."
Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam's flaws to the world.
"Islam is a cancer, period," he said repeatedly, his solemn voice thickly accented.
The two-hour movie, Innocence of Muslims, cost $5 million to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it.
The film claims Muhammad was a fraud. An English-language 13-minute trailer on YouTube shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Muhammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.
It depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.
Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any manner, let alone insult the prophet. A Danish newspaper's 2005 publication of 12 caricatures of the prophet triggered riots in many Muslim countries.
Though Bacile was apologetic about those killed as a result of the outrage over his film, he blamed lax embassy security and the perpetrators of the violence.
"I feel the security system [at the embassies] is no good," said Bacile. "America should do something to change it."
A consultant on the film, Steve Klein, said the filmmaker is concerned for family members who live in Egypt. Bacile declined to confirm.
Klein said he vowed to help Bacile make the movie but warned him that "you're going to be the next Theo van Gogh." Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after making a film that was perceived as insulting to Islam.
"We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen," Klein said.
Bacile's film was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic by someone he doesn't know, but he speaks enough Arabic to confirm that the translation is accurate. It was made in three months in the summer of 2011, with 59 actors and about 45 people behind the camera.
The full film has been shown once, to a mostly empty theater in Hollywood earlier this year, said Bacile.