Outrage! Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others killed in Benghazi, Libya

I posted about the mob attack at the US Office/Consulate in Benghazi around midnight last night (see US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others).  I understand then from my State Department source that Ambassador Stevens and two other senior embassy officials were in Benghazi for the opening of the American Center there but that they were in a safe haven during the attack.  I went to bed hoping the insanity had flamed out during the night only to wake up with the news that Ambassador Stevens and three other staff had been killed.  Ambassador Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979 1995.

Correction: US Ambassador to Afghanistan Spike Dubs was killed in 1979 in an exchange of fire after a kidnapping attempt. But in 1988, we also lost Ambassador Arnie Raphel who was killed in along with Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom when their plane mysteriously crashed shortly after takeoff from Bahawalpur.  Then in 1995, the first US Ambassador to Estonia Robert Frasure was killed in an automobile accident on the Igman mountain near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina while on a mission to negotiate a U.S. proposal to end the conflict in Bosnia. WaPo has a list of ambassadors killed in the line of duty here, but the list does not include Ambassador Frasure. (Thanks Jeff Z!)

Photo via Senator McCain’s tweet – http://lockerz.com/s/223075753

I don’t know if there is anyone out there who is not outrage by these attacks. Ambassador Stevens was our man in Benghazi during the Libyan revolution. He helped save that city and he was happy to be back in Libya. Then they killed him.

The AP is reporting that the Libyan doctor who treated Ambassador  Stevens at the Benghazi Medical Center says that he tried for 90 minutes to revive him but that our top diplomat in Libya died of severe asphyxiation.

Ziad Abu Zeid told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Stevens was brought to the Benghazi Medical Center by Libyans the night before, with no other Americans and that initially no one realized he was the ambassador.

Abu Zeid said Stevens had “severe asphyxia,” apparently from smoke inhalation, causing stomach bleeding, but had no other injuries.

There are hard to look photos here reportedly of Ambassador Stevens body being “dragged” from the “embassy.”  But the smoke on this attack has yet to clear. Elsewhere it is reported that he was in a car hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.  I cannot tell from just looking at these photos if he was indeed dragged from the diplomatic compound by militants or, if true that he was attack in a car, if this is him dragged out of a car.

Libyan officials condemned the attack on a US consulate in Libya yesterday, with interim President Mohamed el Megarif calling the attack “cowardly” and apologizing to the US, vowing to apprehend the killers.

“We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world.”

But CSM reports that Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif, said in a press conference aired on Al Jazeera that the killings were carried out not by an Islamist group but by members of the former regime of Muammar Qaddafi. And he implied that the US consulate was at fault for not taking adequate security measures.

“They are to blame simply for not withdrawing their personnel from the premises, despite the fact that there was a similar incident when [Al-Qaeda second-in-command and Libyan citizen] Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed. It was necessary that they take precautions. It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions,” said Mr. Sharif, according to Al Jazeera.

A shocking and an outrageous response no less.  What is clear here is that the Libyan Government utterly failed in its duty to protect our diplomats in that country.  I would not be surprise if other countries would now scale down, even  withdraw their diplomatic staff from Libya. If they cannot protect US diplomats, how can anyone expect them to protect other diplomats? Our government protects Libyan diplomats in the United States, how is it that some Libyan official washes his hand from his country’s responsibility?

While I sure would like to see Libya apprehend the culprit/s and take them to court, how do you find the killers out of a mob? How can we even tell that whoever is trotted out in front of cameras is the trigger happy nut?

And while the USG is clear in making its distinction that “this was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya” one cannot ignore the fact that this attack was perpetuated in Libyan soil. Secretary Clinton’s statement makes it sound as if this act was not done by Libyans.  Are we now going to drag the Al Qaeda carcass out as perpetrators?

I hope that an Accountability Review Board is convened as soon as possible with its report released to the public at its conclusion.

Here is President Obama via PBS NewsHour

Click here to read Secretary Clinton’s statement.  President Obama also has a statement here.

The only other American casualty identified so far is Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran who spent the last 10 years as an information management officer in the State Department.  He left behind a wife and two young children.  He also is known as Vile Rat in a gaming community. Below is an excerpt from The Mittani:

So: Vile Rat, Sean Smith, my friend for over six years, both in real life and in internet spaceships, was the “State Department Official” killed in Benghazi by a mob of religious lunatics, who had been incited to violence on this September 11th by a movie that was apparently made sometime in July. Obviously, given the combined attacks in Egypt and in Libya, this was a coordinated act designed for maximum media exposure; rile up a mob, point them at an embassy or consulate on 9/11 in particular, aim for the press. Many were injured in these pointless, reprehensible acts, and one of my closest friends was killed as a result.

(12:54:09 PM) vile_rat: assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures

We knew that Vile Rat was in Benghazi; he told us. He commented on how they use guns to celebrate weddings and how there was a constant susurrus of weaponry in the background. He was in situ to provide IT services for the consulate, which meant he was on the net all the time, hanging out with us on Jabber as usual and talking about internet spaceship games.
[…]
He was on jabber when it happened, that’s the most fucked up thing. In Baghdad the same kind of thing happened – incoming sirens, he’d vanish, we’d freak out and he’d come back ok after a bit. This time he said ‘FUCK’ and ‘GUNFIRE’ and then disconnected and never returned.

There are more tributes online here.

The Guardian has a live blog of the attack with extensive links to sources elsewhere.

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US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others

Al Jazeera, citing Libyan security forces is reporting that an American staff member of the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound.

An armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt’s capital.

“One American staff member has died and a number have been injured in the clashes,” Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee, said on Wednesday, adding that rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the building from a nearby farm.

The AP reports that  Libyan security forces outnumbered by the crowd did little to stop the protesters.  The mob overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said.

One American was shot to death and a second was wounded in the hand, al-Sharef said. He did not give further details.

The violence at the consulate lasted for about three hours, but the situation has now quieted down, said another witness.

Secretary Clinton released the following statement confirming the death of one officer and condemning the attack:

I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. 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.

In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

Benghazi is  the second largest city in Libya and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council during and immediately after the 2011 Libyan civil war. On June 6, 2012 there was an IED attack on the U.S. Office in Benghazi during the early morning hours. There were no casualties.  A few days later, there was another attack, this time on a UK diplomatic convoy in Benghazi on June 11. Two individuals sustained injuries. Last month, in the early morning of August 6, U.S. Embassy personnel were attacked by armed assailants in a possible carjacking in Tripoli. The personnel evaded the attack and arrived safely at their destination.  But on September 11, they finally got one of ours.

Our State Department source said that the officer killed was a TDYer out for a short stint in Benghazi.  We’re also hearing that top embassy officials were supposed to open the new American Corner in Benghazi on September 11. So it is possible that there were more people at the US Office in Benghazi than the normal number of staff when the attack happened. We will update blog post if we learn more.