US envoy to Libya killed in attack over movie (Second Lead)

September 12th, 2012 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 12 (IANS) The US ambassador to Libya was killed in a rocket attack by unidentified armed men who stormed the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, media reports said Wednesday.

Christopher Stevens was among four people killed in the late Tuesday protest over a US-produced film that is said to insult the Prophet Muhammad, BBC reported.

Stevens is the second US envoy anywhere to be killed in an attack like this. Adolph Dubs, ambassador to Afghanistan, was assassinated in Kabul in 1979.

Xinhua quoted Al Jazeera TV as saying that Stevens, who was on a short trip to Benghazi, Libya’s second biggest city, died of suffocation as smoke engulfed the consulate after the mob set it on fire.

But some reports said he died when a car in which he was trying to get away came under rocket fire.

According to CNN, unidentified armed men stormed the grounds, and shot at buildings and threw handmade bombs into the compound.

Security forces returned fire but Libyan officials say they were overwhelmed.

Three American security staff were also killed, a contractor working at the mission told CNN.

Stevens served in the post since May 2012. He previously served in Libya twice, in 2007-09 and during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

He worked as international trade lawyer before joining the US Foreign Service in 1991.

The film that sparked the demonstration is said to have been produced by Sam Bacile, a 52-year-old US citizen from California and promoted by an expatriate Egyptian Copt, a native Christian.

Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said Stevens was “a friend of Libya, and we are shocked at the the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi”.

“I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere,” Abushagur wrote on Twitter.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed “a staff member” died.

“We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Some have sought to justify this vicious behaviour as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet,” Clinton said in a statement.

“The US deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But let me be clear — There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind,” she said.

In Cairo, several thousands of Egyptians protested in front of the US embassy against the same movie, allegedly sponsored by Americans but not by the US government or Hollywood companies.

BBC said protesters breached the US embassy and tore down the US flag, which was flying at half mast to mark the 9/11 attack, and replaced it with an Islamist banner.

US ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs was assassinated Feb 14, 1979.

An expert in Soviet affairs, Dubs was killed in an exchange of gunfire between Islamist extremists, who kidnapped the envoy, and Afghan security forces.

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