The ambassador of the United States to Libya, Christopher Stevens was killed during an armed mob attack in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, raising fresh questions about the merits of Washington’s policy of “regime change” in West Asia that followed these strikes.
Mr. Stevens is the second U.S. ambassador who has been killed during an outstation posting since the death of Adolph Dubs in 1979 during his tenure in Afghanistan.
Reuters is reporting that three other members of embassy staff were killed on Tuesday night, as a result of a rocket attack in Benghazi.
Details about the circumstances of the envoy’s killing are still hazy.
Reuters quoted an official as saying that the ambassador was being driven to a safer location from the consulate building in Benghazi when the gunmen struck. But, a separate account of the incident by Wanis al Sharif, the Libyan Deputy Minister differed in detail with the agency’s report.
Mr. Sharif said that the attackers had struck on Tuesday night in two separate waves. The angry mob, protesting against a U.S.-made film that ridicules Prophet Mohammed first torched the consulate building which had already been peppered with gunfire. Consequently, the ambassador and other officials were moved to a second building in the consulate compound, which was considered safer. However, that building also came under attack after members of the Libyan security team signalled to the protesters the relocation of the officials.
A Libyan doctor who attended on Mr. Stevens after he had been brought to hospital told Associated Press that for 90 minutes, he had tried to revive the envoy, who had suffered severe asphyxiation, resulting in stomach bleeding. The doctor, Ziad Abu Zeid said that no other Americans had been brought to Benghazi Medical Centre, and no one, initially recognised the envoy.
The American amateur film Innocence of Muslims, has also triggered a similar, but less violent attack in Cairo, the Egyptian capital. Those involved in making the film include Terry Jones, a Christian pastor, who was responsible for triggering mass protests in Afghanistan, following a Quran-burning scandal.
In Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the "inhuman and abusive act" of the filmmakers, which he said, "has caused enmity and confrontation between the religions and cultures of the world," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Al-Jazeera is reporting that two U.S. marines were also among the four people who had died during the cascading assault. The bodies of the dead have been transported to Benghazi international airport and are being flown to Tripoli, en route Germany, where a major U.S. airbase is located.
U.S. President Barack Obama has “strongly" condemned the "outrageous" killing of four Americans, and paid tribute to the slain ambassador and his colleagues.
Jolted by the shocking incident, Libyan officials were on the defensive on Wednesday. Mr. Sharif said that the Libyan Interior Ministry lacked “necessary equipment and weaponry," and the guards had been withdrawn as the massive assault on the consulate escalated. "If the premises are attacked by a large number of heavily armed people, it is almost a suicidal attack". "It was imperative to withdraw the guards."
The Deputy Interior Minister also pinned blame on the “remnants of the former (Qadhafi) regime” for the attack.
Some analysts see Tuesday’s strike as blowback to the U.S. policy of “regime change” that resulted in the toppling of iron-fisted but secular leaders in the region, who had kept a lid on Islamic extremism, including former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and slain Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.
Libya Herald, citing local witnesses, is reporting that the members of the hardline Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia were among the attackers.
Following the lethal strike, President Obama has ordered enhanced security for U.S. diplomatic personnel around the world, AP reported. A Marine Corps team is heading to Libya to beef up security at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.