Breaking
Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

Click Here

US-consul-in-Libya.jpg

  • A file photo of US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens (L) meeting with Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil. (AFP)

Angry protesters also attack US mission in Egypt

BY: ARAB NEWS

Wednesday 12 September 2012

TRIPOLI, Libya: The US ambassador to Libya and three American members of his staff were killed in the attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Prophet Muhammad (praise be upon him), Libyan and US officials said Wednesday.
Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob guns and rocket propelled grenades.
The three Libyan officials who confirmed the deaths were deputy interior minister for eastern Libya Wanis Al-Sharaf; Benghazi security chief Abdel-Basit Haroun; and Benghazi city council and security official Ahmed Bousinia.
US President Barack Obama and Western governments condemned the attacks.
In a statement, Obama said he had ordered “all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.”
Obama said: “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi.” The four Americans “exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe,” he said.
The attack on the Benghazi consulate took place as hundreds of protesters in neighboring Egypt scaled the walls of the US Embassy in Cairo and tore down and replaced the American flag with a black Islamic banner.
The attacks in Benghazi and Cairo were the first such assaults on US diplomatic facilities in either country, at a time when both Libya and Egypt are struggling to overcome the turmoil following the ouster of their longtime authoritarian leaders, Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, in uprisings last year.
The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over a film ridiculing Muhammad produced by an Israeli filmmaker living in California and being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.
Stevens, 52, was a career diplomat who spoke Arabic and French and had already served two tours in Libya, including running the office in Benghazi during the revolt against Qaddafi. He was confirmed as ambassador to Libya by the Senate earlier this year.
Before Tuesday, five US ambassadors had been killed in the line of duty, the last being Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979, according to the State Department historian’s office.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham 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 US 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 behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” Clinton said in a statement released by the State Department. “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 Benghazi, a large mob stormed the US consulate, with gunmen firing their weapons, said Wanis Al-Sharef, an Interior Ministry official in Benghazi was quoted in an Associated Press report as saying. A witness said attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate as they clashed with Libyans hired to guard the facility.
Outnumbered by the crowd, Libyan security forces did little to stop them, Al-Sharef said.
The crowd 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.
“I heard nearly 10 explosions and all kinds of weapons. It was a terrifying day,” said the witness who refused to give his name because he feared retribution.
Hours before the Benghazi attack, hundreds of mainly ultraconservative Islamist protesters in Egypt marched to the US Embassy in downtown Cairo, gathering outside its walls and chanting against the movie and the US Most of the embassy staff had left the compound earlier because of warnings of the upcoming demonstration.
“Say it, don’t fear: Their ambassador must leave,” the crowd chanted.
Dozens of protesters then scaled the embassy walls, and several went into the courtyard and took down the American flag from a pole. They brought it back to the crowd outside, which tried to burn it, but failing that tore it apart.
The protesters on the wall then raised on the flagpole a black flag with a Muslim declaration of faith, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet.” The flag, similar to the banner used by Al-Qaeda, is commonly used by ultraconservatives around the region.
The crowd grew throughout the evening with thousands standing outside the embassy. Dozens of riot police lined up along the embassy walls but did not stop protesters as they continued to climb and stand on the wall — though it appeared no more went into the compound.
The crowd chanted, “Islamic, Islamic. The right of our prophet will not die.” Some shouted, “We are all Osama,” referring to Al-Qaeda leader Bin Laden. Young men, some in masks, sprayed graffiti on the walls. Some grumbled that Islamist President Mohammed Morsi had not spoken out about the movie.
A group of women in black veils and robes that left only their eyes exposed chanted, “Worshippers of the Cross, leave the Prophet Muhammad alone.” By midnight, the crowd had dwindled. The US Embassy said on its Twitter account that there will be no visa services on Wednesday because of the protests.
A senior Egyptian security official at the embassy area said authorities allowed the protest because it was “peaceful.” When they started climbing the walls, he said he called for more troops, denying that the protesters stormed the embassy. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
The Cairo embassy is in a diplomatic area in Garden City, where the British and Italian embassies are located, only a few blocks away from Tahrir Square, the center of last year’s uprising that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The US Embassy is built like a fortress, with a wall several meters high. But security has been scaled back in recent months, with several roadblocks leading to the facility removed after legal court cases by residents.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry promised in a statement to provide the necessary security for diplomatic missions and embassies and warned that “such incidents will negatively impact the image of stability in Egypt, which will have consequences on the life of its citizens.” One protester, Hossam Ahmed, said he was among those who entered the embassy compound and replaced the American flag with the black one. He said the group has now removed the black flag from the pole and laid it instead on a ladder on top of the wall.
“This is a very simple reaction to harming our prophet,” said another, bearded young protester, Abdel-Hamid Ibrahim.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Egyptian police had removed the demonstrators who entered the embassy grounds.
Muslims find it offensive to depict Prophet Muhammad in any fashion, much less in an insulting way. The 2005 publication of 12 caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper triggered riots in many Muslim countries.
A 14-minute trailer of the movie that sparked the protests, posted on the website YouTube in an original English version and another dubbed into Egyptian Arabic, ridiculed Prophet Muhammad badly.
A YouTube spokesperson said the website would not take down the video at this point. The website’s guidelines call for removing videos that include a threat of violence, but not those only expressing opinions. YouTube’s practice is not to comment on a specific videos.
“We take great care when we enforce our policies and try to allow as much content as possible while ensuring that our Community Guidelines are followed,” the YouTube spokesperson said. “Flagged content that does not violate our Guidelines will remain on the site.” Sam Bacile, an American citizen who said he produced, directed and wrote the two-hour film, said he had not anticipated such a furious reaction.
“I feel sorry for the embassy. I am mad,” Bacile said.
Speaking from a telephone with a California number, Bacile said he is Jewish and familiar with the region. Bacile said the film was produced in English and he doesn’t know who dubbed it in Arabic. The full film has not been shown yet, he said, and he said he has declined distribution offers for now.
“My plan is to make a series of 200 hours” about the same subject, he said.
Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-born Christian in the US known for his anti-Islam views, told The Associated Press from Washington that he was promoting the video on his website and on certain TV stations, which he did not identify.
Medhat Klada, a representative of Coptic Christian organizations in Europe, said Sadek’s views are not representative of expatriate Copts.
“He is an extremist … We don’t go down this road. He has incited the people (in Egypt) against Copts,” he said, speaking from Switzerland. “We refuse any attacks on religions because of a moral position.” But he said he was concerned about the backlash from angry Islamists, saying their protest only promotes the movie. “They don’t know dialogue and they think that Islam will be offended from a movie.”

By

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *