The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. (Photo : Reuters)
Four Americans working at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador John Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, were killed on Tuesday in a rocket assault, the White House announced on Wednesday.
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According to the Washington Post, Steven, 52, and fellow consulate workers were fleeing the building when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their vehicle. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not identify the two other Americans killed during an address on Wednesday citing pending notification to their next of kin.
Stevens, who worked for years in the Foreign Service in the Middle East, was named ambassador to Libya in May. The Washington Post reported that Stevens had worked in Libya for years, both before and after the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
In a statement, Clinton said, "We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future."
President Barack Obama issued a statement Wednesday morning condemning the attacks as well.
"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."
The attack in Benghazi followed protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported. Both the protest and the attack were reportedly fueled by outrage over an amateur, anti-Muslim film made in the U.S. called "The Innocence of Muslims."
Following the deadly attack, President Obama ordered an increase in security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the globe. The Washington Post reported that the Defense Department had dispatched two Marine Corps anti-terrorism security teams to Libya on Wednesday.
The Libyan and Egyptian governments have condemned the violence in their countries. Libya's prime minister issued an apology and extended his sympathy for the deaths during a news conference in Tripoli on Wednesday.
The attack also prompted a statement from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who said he was "outraged" by the attack. According to CNN, Romney then said, "It's disgraceful that that Obama administration's first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
Romney's comments quickly prompted a response from the Obama campaign, which said, "We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose that launch of a political attack."
President Obama will address the attacks on Wednesday at 10:35 a.m. from the White House.
Arabian news service Doualia.com aired raw footage from the attack in Benghazi: