On the night of 11 to12 September, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stephens and three staff members of the United States envoy were killed after an armed crowd attacked and set fire to the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. The crowd protested against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam's prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt's capital. There were also reports of heavy clashes between armed militiamen and security forces outside the building.
The Ambassador was paying a short visit to Benghazi when the consulate came under attack on Tuesday night. Two U.S. security personnel and another consulate employee, whose nationality could not immediately be confirmed, was also killed.
‘Innocence of Muslims’ controversy
On 11 September, angry crowds in Cairo stormed over the fortified walls of the U.S. Embassy. The mobs were set off by Egyptian media reports about a 14-minute trailer for the video, called Innocence of Muslims,” that was released on the Web. Soon after the Egyptian outburst, demonstrations broke out in neighbouring Libya, leading to the fatal Benghazi killings.
In reaction to the killings, Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur stated, that he “condemns the cowardly act of attacking the US consulate and the killing of Mr Stevens and the other diplomats,” on his Twitter account. “Stevens was a friend of Libya and we are shocked at the attacks on the U.S. consulate.”
The Egypt Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, “strongly condemned” what it said was a movie produced by U.S.-based Coptic Christians, dubbing it a “racist crime and a failed attempt to provoke sectarian strife between the two elements of the nation, Muslims and Christians,” according to a statement posted on the party’s website. The condemnation came hours after demonstrators attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
U.S. Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the attack and said she had called Libyan President Mohammed El-Megarif “to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.” Clinton expressed concern that the protests might spread to other countries. She said the U.S. is working with “partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.” “Some have sought to justify this vicious behaviour as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” Clinton said in a statement released by the State Department.