The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other diplomats were killed when Libyan extremists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday night, the Wall Street Journal reported.
There are conflicting reports regarding the deaths. One Libyan security official said the ambassador’s convoy had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Another said the diplomats died of smoke inhalation.
The violence in Libya followed a similar attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday when Islamic extremists stormed the embassy’s outer walls and tore down the American flag, replacing it with an Islamic flag. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations condemned both attacks, saying there is “no justification and no legitimization for such violence.”
“We hope that all parties, governmental and non-governmental alike, will strive to restore calm and prevent the exploitation of the situation by extremist elements,” the Conference of President said in a statement.
Both attacks appear to be inspired by an obscure anti-Islamic film called “Innocence of Muslims,” that was produced by Sam Bacile, a California real estate developer. Bacile, who has since gone into hiding, told a reporter that Islam is a “cancer” and said that he “intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.”
According to the New York Times, American anti-Islamic activists promoted the film, specifically an Egyptian-American activist named Morris Sandek who wrote an Arabic language blog post promoting the movie. The blog post eventually came to the attention of Sheikh Khaled Abdalla, a radical Egyptian TV host, who broadcast the film that sparked outrage.
Egyptian-British journalist and blogger Sarah Carr wrote, “Sheikh Khaled Abdalla is part of a school of particularly shrill religious demagogues who turn every possible event into an attack on Islam.”
The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is the latest embassy attack in Egypt. Last year, protesters stormed the Israeli Embassy there. Meanwhile, in Libya, the government has condemned the deaths and promised to find those responsible. However, the weak central government has had difficulty asserting its authority over the numerous militant factions.