U.S. Ambassador & 3 Americans killed in Libya attack

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. SOURCE: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two other unidentified Americans were killed on Tuesday as gunmen stormed and set fire to the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. SOURCE: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi…Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers,” said President Barack Obama.

“We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done,” Obama said.

Protesters, angry over an American-made film that reportedly ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, attacked the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Clinton called on Libyan President Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf to “coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.” Magariaf, who took office a month ago, has “expressed his condemnation and condolences” and pledged his government’s full cooperation, according to the State Department.

The President acknowledged the efforts of the Libyan security forces in safely evacuating other American diplomats, stressing that “this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.”

Yesterday marked the first deadly attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either Libya and Egypt – two countries that are still trying to recover and stabilize from political turmoils following the ousters of their longtime rulers, Muammar Gaddafi (Libya) and Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), during the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

Victims of the Benghazi consulate attack

Prior to his final post as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens served as the U.S. Envoy to the Libyan opposition during last year’s civil war that ended Muammar Gaddafi’s decades-long authoritarian regime.

“I had the honor to serve as the U.S. Envoy to the Libyan opposition during the revolution and I was thrilled to watch the Libyan people stand up and demand their rights,” Steven said in a video dated May 21, 2012 posted by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. “Now, I’m excited to return to Libya to continue the great work we’ve started, building a solid partnership between the United States and Libya to help you the Libyan people achieve your goals.”

“It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save,” said Obama. “At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.”

A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, Stevens served in diplomatic posts throughout the Middle East and North Africa. He was a graduate of UC Berkeley and began his career as a Peace Corp volunteer teaching English in Morocco.

Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith was a 10-year veteran of the State Department.

“Like Chris, Sean was one of our best,” said Clinton.

A veteran of the Air Force, Smith served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and The Hague before being assigned to Libya. He leaves behind his wife, Heather; daughter, Samantha; and son, Nathan.

The State Department is withholding the identities of two other Americans killed in the Benghazi attack until their families have been notified.

“These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity.  They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity,” said Obama. “We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.”

 

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