Libya attack: US to investigate Benghazi assault

People demonstrate during a rally to condemn the killers of the US ambassador to Libya and the attack on the US consulate, in Benghazi 12 September 2012 Protests have been held in Benghazi condemning the attack

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The US is investigating whether the attack in Libya that killed the US ambassador and several other people was planned in advance, officials say.

The assault had earlier been thought to have been a spontaneous reaction to protests over an anti-Islamic film.

US President Barack Obama has called the presidents of Egypt and Libya to urge cooperation over security for diplomatic staff.

There have been further clashes outside the US embassy in Cairo overnight.

Thousands of people gathered outside the building in the Egyptian capital, chanting and starting fires.

Police and troops fired tear gas to break up the crowds, some of whom were seen carrying petrol bombs.

On Wednesday, demonstrators in Cairo angry at the film - Innocence of Muslims - had breached the walls of the US embassy and torn down the flag.

President Barack Obama has vowed to bring those behind the attack to justice, but said the US would not "break bonds" with the new Libyan government.

The White House says Mr Obama spoke to Libyan President Mohamed Magarief on Wednesday evening and agreed the two countries should work together to identify the attackers.

In a further call to Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi promised to ensure the safety of American staff in the country, the White House said.

Security has been tightened at US embassies across the world.

A marine anti-terrorism team is being deployed to Libya to bolster security there, a US defence source told reporters in Washington.

The US says it is also sending two destroyers to the coast of Libya as a precautionary measure.

Militia suspicions

Armed men stormed the consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday night.

It is believed Ambassador J Christopher Stevens died of smoke inhalation. Three other Americans and up to 10 Libyans also died in the attack.

Officials have now said the attack was complex and professional, and reports suggest the perpetrators may have had links to jihadist groups.

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It is clear President Obama's response to the first killing of an American ambassador for 30 years is an election issue”

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A senior US official quoted by AFP news agency said the Benghazi attackers appeared to have used the demonstrations as a pretext to staging an assault.

"This was a complex attack," he told the news agency. "They seemed to have used this [protest] as an opportunity."

US officials told Reuters news agency there were suspicions that a militia known as the Ansar al-Sharia brigade was responsible, although the group has denied the claim.

They said there were also reports that al-Qaeda's north Africa-based affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, may have been involved, the news agency reports.

President Obama: "There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence"

The consulate compound began taking heavy fire at about 22:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Tuesday night, and the main building was in flames soon afterwards.

Libyan and US security forces tried to retake the compound several times, US officials said, but only succeeded early on Wednesday.

One of the Americans killed was Sean Smith, a state department employee. The other victims have not yet been identified.

Seventeen-year-old Hamam, who took part in the attack, told Reuters that Ansar al-Sharia cars had arrived at the start of the protest but later left.

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The attack is a grim reminder that the threat the United States and the West have been dealing with for more than a decade may be reduced, but is not gone”

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"The protesters were running around the compound just looking for Americans, they just wanted to find an American so they could catch one," he said.

"We started shooting at them, and then some other people also threw hand-made bombs over the fences and started the fires in the buildings."

Little is known about the origins of the film, including about a man named as Sam Bacile, reported as being behind its production.

BBC reporters probing his background on Wednesday were unable to confirm personal details.

Egypt's Coptic Church has issued a statement condemning the production, after reports that some Copts in the US had financed the film.

US ambassadors killed in line of duty

  • John Gordon Mein - Guatemala, 1968: Shot dead by rebels who ambushed his car
  • Cleo A Noel Jr - Sudan, 1973: Shot dead along with senior US and Belgian diplomats by Palestinian militants, after being taken hostage in Saudi embassy
  • Rodger P Davies - Cyprus, 1974: Killed by sniper gunfire during a protest at US embassy by Greek Cypriots
  • Francis E Meloy Jr - Lebanon, 1976: Kidnapped and shot dead by Palestinian militants in Beirut with another senior US official
  • Adolph Dubs - Afghanistan, 1979: Killed in exchange of fire after Afghan and Soviet forces tried to free him from kidnappers in hotel
'Especially tragic'

Libyan officials have condemned the attack and pledged to investigate.

Interim leader, Mohammed Magarief, apologised to the US, adding: "We expect the rest of the world to help us face these cowardly criminal acts."

Speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House on Wednesday, President Obama praised the ambassador for his work in Libya after the overthrow of the late Col Muammar Gaddafi.

He said it was "especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    stuart18230 (117),

    "... how much crap should these people take before its ok to get angry?"

    How much "crap" should these people take before its ok to kill other people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    One Egyptian called for "a world law against acts against Islam" (BBC News - local TV today). So they blow up a Buddha Statue a few years ago and they want world respect ?? His proposed "law" is reciprocal and not one way only. What a bunch of single minded people !!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    It should be noted that Arnold Lewis Raphel was killed Aug. 17, 1988 in a "mysterious" plane crash President Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq. Everyone on board was killed. Raphel was serving as the American ambassador to Pakistan under President Ronald Reagan. While this was not deemed a murder, this was a death while serving in our Foreign Service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    ref #117

    Another person blaming the victims of terrorism

    Israel is one of the leaders in the fight against terrorism.

    There were a good many terrorists in those mobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    To all those people who think the Muslim world has any other way to voice their concerns about America other than to protest and destroy their stuff needs to wake up - should they write to their mp and ask them to stop; the drones - wars for oil - supplying weapons to terrorists (Israel) and numerous other things - also how much crap should these people take before its ok to get angry?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    I have yet to meet one person in the USA that likes this video or supports it's ideas. I haven't seen anything but dislike for the things said. One of the actresses in the film come forward and say she wouldn't have appeared in the film if she knew what would later be dubbed in. She showed her original script which had none of the offending material. Her family is fearful, please leave her alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    The grim fact is that the Middle East is full of young, frustrated and heavily repressed men & women who see no future for themselves, view the West with sharp envy -- and are desperate for any outlet to rage against their feelings of hopelessness.

    A cartoon or film is merely an opening which lets them express that rage. Expect more of it -- until they find a way to cope constructively..

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    1`i wish i knew how to write well in Arabic to be able to convey this message to all those who have gone out in protest about the movie called 'innocense of muslims'. thousands across the world have gone out and many others are planning to go out in protest about the movie that has been made to offend the islamic religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    What a sad comment on religion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    ref #34
    10 Hours ago
    Surely the US should prosecute this 'Sam Bacile' for inciting religious hatred as he's given these terrorist an excuse for this attack. This would also show that they are a fair and balanced country.
    As vile as it was, we believe in freedom of speech

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Whatever happened in libya was tragic. May Chris soul rest in peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I don't seem to remember the protests when the Buddhas of Bamiyan were blown up. Is it me or is respect for beliefs a one way street here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    ref #106 and 107

    Ask your moslem friends why Israel who was attacked in 48,67 and 73 should be required to give land back when no one else does in a conflict?

    Also ask them why they support the yth of the Nbaka and refuse to even come to the table with Israel

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Libyans do not need American interference in their oil industry. The United States resorts to de-stabilizing government in that country. The Romney Administration should practice diplomacy and maintain an objective position with the new Leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    A report from Jerusalem-based B'Tselem showed in 2011 Israeli security forces killed 105 Palestinians in Gaza.

    "The picture is harsh, not because of dramatic events or a sudden deterioration, but precisely because of the routine,"

    "This year, we enter the 45th year since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.''

    Just one extract...and we are puzzled why Israels #1 friend is unpopular?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    104. peter petros

    seems Islamists were looking for an excuse to go after the US.


    But why?

    When I speak to Muslims, in my case, all very highly educated, & deplore violence, none the less, the one constant complaint is how the USA stands blindly in support of Israel, whatever it does.

    I deplore all extremists, but I despair when I see white phosphorous dropped on a UN facility in Gaza!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    @104 peter petros
    I appreciate your sentiments but I would like to point out that there are principles within your comment that could also be said of the USA.

    Presently, the news is showing destroyers in the Mediterranean as well as 4 in the Persian Gulf. It appears that this situation may be beneficial to the Am/s after all.

    The history/behaviour of the US leaves many suspicious!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    it seems that the Islamists were looking for an excuse to go after the US and they found it in a film. no one is here to make fun of their religion maybe they need to open their eyes and minds and look around them before they ask their people to go in the streets against everyone. their religious leaders should preach as the Koran writting about tolerance not hate towards other humans

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    One idiots idea cost 4 dead & more wounded, Including Ambassador in libya! Made a entire nation to an enemy of other nations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    The Muslim world needs to do nothing more than to recognize their enemies, not even peaceful demonstrations. On Sept. 12 the West received a powerful blow in the guts, not at the hands of lawless gangsters who killed diplomats but at the hands of law makers who sent the Western lackey Mahmoud Jibril to defeat.


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