Islamists kill US ambassador to Libya, 3 other Americans, overrun consulate


Unknown "gunmen" thought to be linked to Islamist militias overran the US Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in Libya last night, and killed the US ambassador, a consular official, and two security personnel. In Egypt, Islamists and other Egyptians stormed the US embassy in Cairo and raised al Qaeda's flag over the building. The attacks were in response to a controversial film released on YouTube that depicts the life of the Prophet Mohammed in a negative light.

The assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi began last night after a large group of heavily armed fighters, estimated at 60 to 70 strong, according to Al Jazeera gathered outside and launched rocket-propelled grenades at the building. The fighters outgunned the local Libyan guards, entered the consulate, ransacked it, and set it aflame.

It is still unclear how US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, consular official Sean Smith, and two former SEALs who were members of the security detail who were originally thought to be US Marines, were killed. Reports indicate the security personnel were killed in gunfire, and there have been conflicting reports that Stephens died in an ambush while leaving the building, or died of smoke inhalation. Another unconfirmed report, at The Guardian, said that Stevens' body may have been dragged in the streets.

An Islamist group called Ansar al Shariah was blamed for the attack, but according to The New York Times, Ansar al Shariah issued a statement denying the attack. However, an anonymous banker who witnessed the events claimed that Ansar al Shariah executed the attack and that the Libyan guards stood by, according to The Libya Herald. Ansar al Shariah attacked the Tunisian Consulate in Benghazi on June 18, and on June 9 the group had called for the implementation of sharia across Libya.

Islamist groups are prevalent in Libya, and have attacked US and British diplomatic personnel, as well as the International Red Cross in the past. A group calling itself the Brigades of the Imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, which is named after the Egyptian cleric currently serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for his role in the 1993 bombings at the World Trade center, claimed credit for some of the attacks in Benghazi in June, according to The Washington Post.

Salafists have run wild in Libya, destroying mosques and shrines that are deemed to be un-Islamic. Libya's interior minister admitted as much at the end of August, when he said his forces were powerless to stop them and a host of other militias. From McClatchy:

"If we deal with this using security we will be forced to use weapons, and these groups have huge amounts of weapons," Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel Alsaid said in late August, according to McClatchy. "They are large in power and number in Libya. I can't enter a losing battle to kill people over a grave."

Libya's deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al Sharif, placed the blame for last night's assault on the US Consulate on militias loyal to former President Muammar Gaddafi, and also blamed the US for not with withdrawing its personnel from its diplomatic missions.

"They are to blame simply for not withdrawing their personnel from the premises, despite the fact that there was a similar incident when [al-Qaeda second-in-command and Libyan citizen] Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed. It was necessary that they take precautions. It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions," he said, according toAl Jazeera.

Islamist protesters over US embassy walls in Cairo

Several hours before the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt, chanting anti-US slogans in angry reaction to the negative portrayal of Islam in the film on YouTube. Many of the protesters were ultraconservative Salafists, and some were chanting "We are all Osama," The Associated Press reported.

A number of protesters scaled the embassy walls and entered the compound, taking down the American flag and trying to burn it. They raised the black flag of al Qaeda in its place. Egyptian security guards did not stop the protesters from standing on the embassy walls. The crowd grew from hundreds to thousands by evening, and then began to disperse. A senior Egyptian security official said the protest had been permitted because it was "peaceful," according to AP.

No casualties were reported among US embassy staff, most of whom who had reportedly vacated the compound in advance of the protest, having been warned.

Mohamed al Zawahiri, a younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, took credit for helping to organize last night's protest in Cairo, CNN reported. "We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions including the Islamic Jihad (and the) Hazem Abu Ismael movement," he said.

Mohamed al Zawahiri is just one of a number of Islamists and al Qaeda adherents who have been released from jail since the Arab Spring in Egypt. In a recent CNN interview, Mohamed was described as "unrepentant in his beliefs" in al Qaeda's concept of jihad. See Threat Matrix article, CNN interviews Mohamed al Zawahiri.

Mohamed al Zawahiri also appeared in a recent al Qaeda video in which his brother Ayman al Zawahiri delivers a eulogy for slain al Qaeda commander Abu Yayha. The SITE intelligence group reports that Mohamed is shown in the video in an excerpt from an al-Faroq video of Salafists in Egypt.

Today Egyptian state media, which has recently been reorganized so as to have greater Muslim Brotherhood influence in its administration, gave extensive coverage to the protests.

In the wake of the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern that the unrest could spread to other countries, and said the US is working with "partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."



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READER COMMENTS: "Islamists kill US ambassador to Libya, 3 other Americans, overrun consulate"

Posted by m3fd2002 at September 12, 2012 2:25 PM ET:

Wow. Where was the security detail (Marines)? Leaving an Ambassador poorly protected in a cesspool of Islamic extremism is indefensible and quite amateurish as well. As I was saying, we are leaving the middle east to drift to a place that will cost us in the future. Can’t wait for our robust response.

Posted by Paul D at September 12, 2012 2:46 PM ET:

we pay them billions but if you are brought up to hate the west how do you change that mindset?

Posted by Neo at September 12, 2012 2:51 PM ET:

If my reading is right, the film has not been released nor is it finished. What was put up on utube was a demo trailer dubbed into Egyptian dialect Arabic by an unauthorized third party.

I wish I could remember where the article was I was reading. I believe the author/producer wanted to expand his film into a 200 hour series. If that is true, I have to question whether it will ever get finished.

Posted by Neo at September 12, 2012 3:01 PM ET:

It seems that the details on this movie are a bit murky. Seems that some of the usual idiots have involved themselves as well.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/world/middleeast/origins-of-provocative-video-shrouded.html

Posted by Birbal Dhar at September 12, 2012 3:03 PM ET:

Interestingly the Muslims were attacking the US Embassy in Libya and Egypt over a film that criticised the prophet Muhammed and showing him having sex with a woman and gay tendencies.

The film was released in the summer of 2012 and it's preview was on YouTube since July. In effect, it has taken 2 months for the Muslim world to react. The reason, is that someone with Arabic language knowledge, dubbed the film in Arabic on YouTube and Arabs who saw this, were shocked and the controversy spread to the Arab media, which ultimately led to demonstrations.

I suspect these demonstrations will spread to other Muslim countries and I wouldn't be surprised if there are more casualties.

Posted by Bill Baar at September 12, 2012 3:50 PM ET:

Thoughts on this attack as attempt by AQ to out flank Morsi and drive wedge between US and Egypt?

Some gratifying photos over at Libya Al Hurra on facebook of Libyans with signs in English sayint Stevens was a friend of the Libyan people.

Posted by sundoesntrise at September 12, 2012 4:16 PM ET:

Funny how I remember a comment on the LWJ once stating that if we did not intervene in Libya, our enemies would have "crept from the ashes of Benghazi." http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2011/04/slain_lifg_commander_led_force.php

How ironic that we saved the very same "people" that killed a US ambassador and other personnel, and then filmed his dead body on camera (yes, he was dragged through the streets. there is pictures of him being manhandled by an angry mob outside the embassy...)

There have been other attacks on western targets in Libya by Salafists, they have just not been paid so much attention as this one. I think we need to accept the fact that our support for the Arab Spring translated into support for ultra-extremist armed Islamist groups, that put on a nice face to us but when we were no longer needed, they turned on us.

So, basically, anybody who warned that this would happen as a result of the Arab Spring, have been proven right today. It'a shame that we have to be vindicated based on the deaths of such fine men serving their country and the world - but when you jump the gun, and throw in your support for people who are *very evidently* Al Qaeda sympathizing extremists, this is the blowback of that support. Many people warned this would happen, and they were all ignored.

Posted by g at September 12, 2012 4:59 PM ET:

Islamist actions like this make it pretty hard to believe in Mohamed al Zawahiri's peace plan. Didn't the US help these ingrates eliminate Gaddafi? This is the thanks!

Posted by Al at September 12, 2012 5:52 PM ET:

Blaming a Youtube video is BS. This was planned to occur on 9/11. Perhaps Obama bragging about killing Bin Laden had more to do with this.

Another thing, why do we even have Marines at these locations if they cannot defend. I wonder if they even were allowed to have ammo? I bet the MArines wanted to do something, but were ordered to stand down.

"Wind and the Lion".........do it right.

Posted by J House at September 12, 2012 6:38 PM ET:

The attacked was obviously planned to coincide with the anniv. of 9/11, despite the pretense otherwise.
This was a massive failure of the US intelligence community, the State Dept and the Obama admin in general.
What will be the response for an act of war on a US consulate and it's personnel?
Where were the US Marine guards PRIOR to the attack?
It also appears that 2 CIA officers were killed, given the media hasn't released their names.
Bill, any word on the identity of the other 2 KIA?
This admin is setting a record for the most CIA and State Dept personnel killed during a single term, without a doubt...what a tragedy that could have been prevented.

Posted by jimineycricket at September 12, 2012 6:43 PM ET:

One day after the memorial to the killed on September 11, 2001, of that tragic day, our front line security hasn't changed. Why do we always get caught with our pants around knees when the bad guys break in and start shooting everybody in the room....

Posted by wallbangr at September 12, 2012 6:51 PM ET:

All, this "movie" is a very amateurish production that was put on by some extremist who duped the actors into thinking they were making a film about ancient Egypt and then overdubbed the offensive slurs against Islam after-the-fact. This is by no means a mainstream film. An obscure youtube video, at best. In fact, I've heard that it wouldn't pass muster for a junior college film class and that it is embarrassingly amateur. The screenshots I've seen make the Power Rangers look like first-class film-making. The back story is a very strange one, and getting stranger by the hour. The man behind the film, who goes by the pseudonym "Sam Bacile" seems to have tried to implicate the American Jewish community, Israel and evangelical Christians. Ironically, though reported by some media outlets as an American Jew of Israeli descent, Sam Bacile may, in fact, be an Egyptian Coptic Christian. One of the actresses said that Sam Bacile told her he was Egyptian and spoke Arabic. Something about this is very fishy. But the fact of the matter is that this sloppy youtube video never got any mileage until Egyptians made it viral. How some thugs took that as a pretext to attack the American embassy in Bengazi is one of those confounding features of this so-called religion of peace. Whether it was all an elaborate ruse to create a diversion for a well-planned attack by AQ et al, or whether it was a confluence of crazy coincidence will remain to be seen.

http://gawker.com/5942748/it-makes-me-sick-actress-in-muhammed-movie-says-she-was-deceived-had-no-idea-it-was-about-islam

Posted by Chris at September 12, 2012 7:45 PM ET:


First the Embassy was not undefended marines and Libyans fought the gun men for five hours . Details point to AQ but it could just as likely be Iran trying to take our eyes off them and Syria. Yes there is a war to be fought against radical Muslim interests but we don't need to fault the Muslim people as a whole. As they should not fault the USA for some anti Mohamed video posted by radicals in the west.

Posted by radiofreeafghan at September 12, 2012 7:47 PM ET:

Cheers to Bill and Lisa for catching the AQ flag in Egypt. CNN's report on the Egypt attack describes it but doesn't label it, really limiting the effectiveness of the reporting.

What I'd like to know is how a Libyan mob found the safehouse that also came under attack later.

Posted by Charu at September 12, 2012 7:54 PM ET:

RIP Ambassador Stevens and the other three casualties. It does appear that the security detail was undermanned and fell into a trap. The Middle East parable of the scorpion and the frog comes to mind; no good deed goes unpunished.

More disturbing is the long-standing naivete shown by our policy makers. It has been apparent since the Iranian revolution that there is a deadly battle between the Shia and Sunni centers of power. We have intervened on behalf of the Sunnis without understanding that their extremists are just as dangerous, if not more so, to our security and interests as the Iranian-sponsored terrorist. I would in fact argue that Wahabi deep pockets make them even more of a global security threat. These are two sides of the same deadly coin and it is obvious that we must view them this way.

Perhaps the best example might be when we shrewdly supported Saddam against the Iranians and allowed them to battle each other to exhaustion. The mistake that we made there was not to subsequently turn sooner against Saddam instead of allowing him to fester and grow as a threat; the same mistake that we made in Afghanistan after the mujaheddin were victorious over the Soviets. We should have eliminated the Bin Ladens and their Pakistani handlers before they grew in strength. Likewise in Libya, we apparently let down our guard thinking that we were the good Samaritans and we didn't worry enough about the Islamists moving in and taking over. As the communists before them, the Islamists believe in one-man-one-vote-one-election. This scorpion always bites the frog, and the key is to eliminate the scorpion before it inevitably stings.

Posted by Observer at September 12, 2012 8:04 PM ET:

As sickening as it is, this is possibly the most accurate definition of the word "blowback", what's scary is that if Syria falls, we'll see this to the tenth power...really sorry for the poor staff.

Posted by m3fd2002 at September 12, 2012 8:23 PM ET:

After spending 8 years being raised(expat) in Saudi and Iran(Shah thru revolution), I'll give you a little tip. If the so called leadership of the Arab spring countries have a rug burn (dark spot on the forehead), they are religious fanatics who believe in the Koran's passages literally. They are equivalent to David Koresh (Waco) and the Klan, here in the states. Ignorant, but extemely dangerous. We made a decision regarding Egypt to allow the Salafists to obtain power (most organized, but most feared)by thowing Mubarek under the bus, just like Carter did to the Shah of Iran. A simple doctrine would suffice in this specific case with Libya. We need to determine exactly who perpetrated these acts. Then demand that the current Libyian government produce the leadership of the groups, prosecute them, then hand them over to us or execute them. If not, no funding will be given, and other punitive actions will be considered. Give them what we gave to the Nazis, total war without any subsequent Mashall Plan. A few cruise missiles fired into the Sahara will not do the trick.

Posted by Stephanie at September 12, 2012 9:05 PM ET:

Very sad about this ambassador. This is the tragic fruit of the Arab Spring and the hateful spirit driving it.

Posted by JameSmace at September 12, 2012 9:29 PM ET:

A defenseless consulate in Libya...after threats to avenge recent killings by US drone missiles?

Can you say "USS LIBERTY"?

Posted by Gitsum at September 12, 2012 9:47 PM ET:

We'll get these cowards like we got bin laden. I hope the cowards that attacked the unarmed diplomatic Americans are reading this, because your days are numbered. Let it be known that I as an American do not condemn the Libyan people only the criminals that did this.

Posted by Panjshir at September 12, 2012 10:29 PM ET:

I would love to hear more from the authors of this blog, who obviously have more contacts in the area than most of us, whether the other two KIA are truly suspected to be Agency personnel. It feels more and more likely with each passing hour that their positions - not only their names - are not officially released - but is still not necessarily so.

Posted by Eric at September 12, 2012 11:32 PM ET:

This was not a spontaneous demonstration, not in Benghazi nor in Cairo.
Five hours in contact with assaulters on the consulate in Benghazi, and then overrun and burned, the ambassador killed and dragged through the strets, the attackers knew where the safe house was, and had it under threat as well.

The Cairo mob may have been largely sympathiers, but the Al Qaeda flag tells us that within that mob there may have been an element prepared to carry out an assault if the US response to perimeter breach used deadly force. When the US did not use deadly force, they did not have the pretext for their attack, and stood off, waiting for their orders.

This stuff is very assymetric. our response can be very hard-line, but this will alienate the public. It can be reserved, and will be called "soft". We pledge millions and billions in aid to Libys and Egypt, but this carries no weight with most of the public, because they do not see a nickel of personal enrichment. The impact of aid is very dilute even within the governments because corruption is endemic, and much is simply stolen by officials who have access to the money.

Whenever the US is presented with a contest of this sort, our enemy reinforces our desire to do something costly and resource-intensive to counter them while all they must do is hide and avoid. This bleeds us down and drains our resources. We do not skillfully portray the cowardice and weakness of the attacks, with a depth of coverage that has any impact on the public either at home or abroad. Our failure to sway the public against the militant islamists is what invites this behavior to continue: It is cheap for them, so if it works, they will definitely keep doing more of the same.

We just lost a US Ambassador. The Libyan public should feel ashamed bordering on dread. It does not take a hair stylist with a Harvard PhD to figure out how to cause those feelings to take root in the Libyan populace, and to cause proportional reactions among the Egyptian public. If the US fails to create that kind of shame and dread for a sustained period of time following these events, then they lost this contest.

Makes me want to vomit in my mouth to hear people rationalize how not to do exactly this.

As Bill, (and many others), has been saying all along: The real failure of the war on terror has been a failure to counter Al Qaeda's ideology. And that is why the US Ambassador to Libya is dead.

Posted by ArnoldLayne at September 13, 2012 12:25 AM ET:

Regarding the Marines - according to a Marine who called into a radio show today who had been on embassy duty in the past. They are there to protect US government records and data. They would only shoot if goons tried to physically enter the embassy, but not if they were climbing the walls or on the grounds. Thus, in the Iran situation, the Marines were busy destroying records, cables, etc. The ambassador likely as not had a private security detail, and he is ultimately in charge.

Posted by naresh c. at September 13, 2012 12:55 AM ET:

Wasn't Benghazi the rebel stronghold? Weren't these the same 'rebels' that CIA supported without 'boots on the ground' just a year ago? They are Muslim brotherhood, aren't they? So, how is the CIA plan for installing Muslim brotherhood regimes and calling it Arab Spring working out? Next stop appears to be Syria, where Assad will be replaced by the 'rebels' or Muslim brotherhood.

Posted by jesterforum at September 13, 2012 7:17 AM ET:

Food for thought, blast me if you want.

Seems like Iraq is heading nowhere fast, neither is Libya. So was it the right choice to step in and remove both dictators? Yes, genocide was stopped, however, stability was also crushed. Under both Saddam and Ghadafi, no matter how mad they were, they had stability. I think we may have been better off with both. Feel free to blast me.

Posted by Alibabadotcom at September 13, 2012 8:24 AM ET:

RIP Ambassador Stevens and the other casualties.
I feel like I have a choice to be sad about something I knew as going to happen or just say I told you so. This time I am going to say I told you so. There should never have been any support for the rebels if any thing we should have helped all the tyrants. At least they would have been somewhat thank full. Mistakes like destroying a inept and useless government are easy. You don't help people who cant help them selves or this is what happens. I bet the Ambassador regretted every thing he did in the final moments. Look who has to clean it all up now? Lastly to those men sending the Marines come hard or don't come at all.

Posted by george at September 13, 2012 9:15 AM ET:

Remember, this was a consulate. Marines in force were stationed at the Embassy in Tripoli. The Ambassador has his own Protective team made up of either State Dept personnel or Marines or both. AND the ambassador makes the call even when he is "advised". It sounds as if he only took his personal protective unit with him made up normally of around 4 Marines. It sounds as if two of these Marines died protecting the ambassador. I am sure the regional security officer (Normally a Marine Officer) advised the ambassador based on any intell he may have had. In the end they cant hold off hundreds of armed thugs. Also unfortunately some Ambassadors jobs are obviously a bit dangerous for this very reason. And especially the Marines tasked with protecting him can be put in really bad tactical situations.

Posted by Al at September 13, 2012 9:37 AM ET:

Why not electrify all embassy fences and grates? A good shock would deter most. Up the power at times like this. And then shoot anyone who gets over. These embassies across the Mideast should be just a short flight away for American air power or drones at all times, at least on every 9/11 period.

Embassies and Consulates are U.S. sovereign terrotory, no?

These security lapses are not acceptable.

Posted by Stu at September 13, 2012 11:46 AM ET:

A sad day for America, with such cowardice from the U.S. Administration.

No amount of public relations "spin" can pull us out of this. m3fd2002 has it exactly right. Pull all the aid from any host country that defiles our embassies and demand justice. All other responses are weak or irrational (if all the Administration can do is to send in drones).

Posted by Bill Baar at September 13, 2012 12:37 PM ET:

OK, I'm no expert, but I've wondered how Zawahir reacts to the ML gaining power through elections while he's spent ten years in AfPak dodging drones. I think we've just seen the response. Outflank Morsi / ML with violent demos, and murder an American who helped save Benghasi.

This is a desperate action of a guy and movement trying to regain some relevancy. The Administration doesn't play the reaction right Zawahiri might pull it off. Lobbing a cruise missle somewhere into Libya not a good solution IMO. (I'm reading about the warships were sending that way at the moment.)

Posted by mike merlo at September 13, 2012 8:10 PM ET:

IED's, suicide bombers, car bombs, assassinations, criminal activity, Death Squads etc., are now on 'the Menu.' AQ & its collaborators appear to have established sustainable presence in and around the Red Sea, Eastern Mediterranean & Tigris/Euphrates watershed. The push from the AfPak Theater into NE Central Africa & parts of the Arabian Peninsula have succeeded. Prior to 9 11 AQ was focused on the Indian sub continent SE & Central Asia. AQ has surfaced as a remarkable adaptable foe. What a mess & whats next?

Posted by Peter Wood at September 13, 2012 8:30 PM ET:

@Stu.

Here is part of what you said:

"A sad day for America, with such cowardice from the U.S. Administration."

What "cowardice" are you referring to?

Posted by HalP at September 13, 2012 10:07 PM ET:

SOFREP.com says instead of two Marines killed it was former Navy SEAL's Glen Doherty & Ty Woods.

The chief editor of SOFREP (former SEAL Brandon Webb) knew Doherty personally and co-authored a book or two together.

Doherty has also authored an article or two on the site.
http://sofrep.com/11401/glen-doherty-and-ty-woods-americas-best-lost-in-libyan-consolate-attack/

Posted by M House at September 14, 2012 12:03 AM ET:

Sad to lose a good man. He was not killed but assassinated. I think it is time to send a strong message to Egypt.

Posted by Kent Gatewood at September 14, 2012 12:18 PM ET:

They don't like the Pope either should Dempsey call him.

They want Tours, Madrid, Rome, and Vienna back. are we prepared to give those cities up?

Posted by Dave at September 15, 2012 12:23 AM ET:

A series of three photos have appeared in various publications, which appear to show Ambassador Stevens being carried by men in civilian clothes, apparently after the attack on the Benghazi consulate. These photos have been characterized by some as Stevens being "paraded or dragged through the streets of Benghazi," with speculation that Stevens "met the same tortured death as Kaddafi."

What the photos actually show is Stevens apparently dead (completely limp, half lidded eyes in two photos) being carried as carefully as a limp body can be carried, with care not to cause additional injury, by Libyans trying to help him. His mouth and nasal areas are black with soot consistent with smoke inhalation. He has a small cut and one contusion on his forehead, possibly a head injury above his left ear, but no other visible wounds, and none of the injuries one would expect to find from mob violence. Judging from his later appearance at the Benghazi hospital, I'd guess that these people are trying to take Stevens to medical help.

These photos are also part of the story ... a part that urges caution in identifying and bringing the true bad guys to justice ... and also a part that says some American press and media are irresponsible dingbats willing to throw gasoline everywhere.

Posted by Dave at September 15, 2012 2:17 PM ET:

From CNN today, confirming my earlier post: ".... The suite where the body of the ambassador was found was protected by a large door with steel bars; .... His body was recovered after looters broke into the room ..., numerous media reports have said the ambassador was taken from the consulate to the Benghazi medical center by locals .... He arrived at the hospital, according to the reports, unresponsive and covered in soot from the fire. A doctor was unable to revive him and declared him dead ,..."

Posted by converse at September 17, 2012 2:59 AM ET:

As Bill, (and many others), has been saying all along: The real failure of the war on terror has been a failure to counter Al Qaeda's ideology. And that is why the US Ambassador to Libya is dead.

Posted by mike merlo at September 17, 2012 6:03 PM ET:

@converse
in some places on the globe it took close to 100 yrs to counter Communist Ideology & in some places it is still thriving. It is naive to think that after just a few decades AQ ideology can be neutralized let alone eradicated. Its not called The Long War for nothing.

Posted by J House at September 18, 2012 2:04 PM ET:

Have we learned anything from 9/11? We send in FBI crime solvers after an act of war, just as we did after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the 2 US embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole attack in 2000.
We need to prepare ourselves for another 9/11, if we are going to respond to acts of war with the FBI and law enforcement actions.