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.

Advertisements