By Michel Cousins
Tripoli, 12 September:
The US State department has confirmed that a US officer was killed in yesterday’s attack on the . . .[restrict]US mission in Benghazi. Intially, reports that a man had been killed were denied last night by witnesses to the event.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton forcefully condemned the attack, saying that she had been in contact with the president of the General National Congress, Mohamed Magarief, and that he had expressed his condemnation.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today”, said Clinton in a statement. “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.”
She said that she had called Magarief “to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magarief expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation”.
She said that “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.”
There has been no public statement from any Libyan official so far, although Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Kib and Magarief are expected to give a press conference this afternoon.
Wild rumours have been circulatingall this morning that the man killed was American ambassador Chris Stevens. Both Aljazieera and Al Arabiya are reporting it.
The US embassy is expected to make a statement shortly about the attack and man who was killed. However, local officials in Benghazi say that the dead man was a security guard.
The wording of Clinton’s statement, and the use of the word “officer”, does not does not fit with the killing of an ambassador.
Local witnesses say that those who attacked the mission were Salafists and that there were also members of the Islamist Ansar Al-Sharia among them. [/restrict]