American State Department Officer Killed in Libya Consulate Attack; Cairo Embassy Also Stormed in Protest Over Film
Protesters angry over movie reportedly tied to Pastor Terry Jones.
Sept. 11, 2012 — -- An American State Department employee was killed in Benghazi, Libya, today, when Libyans stormed the U.S. consulate, angry about a U.S. movie reportedly linked to controversial Pastor Terry Jones.
Anger over the film that some believe insults the Prophet Muhammad also led to protests in Cairo, where demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy, took down the American flag and replaced it with a black flag.
"I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement released tonight. "As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, 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."
Libyan President Mohammed Yussef Magariaf promised to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in the country, condemned the assault on the embassy and pledged his government's full cooperation, Clinton said.
A Libyan security official told The Associated Press that two consulate employees were shot when armed men who stormed the consulate. One was killed and another wounded in the hand, said Wanis al-Sharef, an interior ministry official in Benghazi. He provided no further details.
In Cairo, dozens of protesters scaled the embassy walls and took down the flag from a pole in the courtyard. After trying unsuccessfully to burn it, they ripped it apart and replaced it with a black flag bearing Arabic writing. Reports that the black flag was from al Qaeda were not confirmed.
Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said today the United States was working with Egyptian security to restore order.
"This came up pretty quickly," she said. "[It was a] relatively modest group of people and the Egyptian security was caught off guard."
David Linfield, an embassy spokesman, said that no guns were involved.
"No one fired," he said.
According to The Atlantic and Egyptian media, the movie is called "Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims" and was produced by Jones, the controversial Florida preacher whose Koran burning in March 2011 led to the deadly violence in Afghanistan.
Jones today said in a statement that the film was actually titled "Innocence of Muslims" and was intended not to attack Muslims but to show the "destructive ideology of Islam."
"The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad," he said.
Egyptian media also reported that two Egyptians from the Christian minority Coptic group had helped with the movie. Clips in Arabic and English have been released on YouTube.
In a statement, the U.S. embassy said it condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, jumped on the embassy's statement with one of his own.
"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi," he said. "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
Clinton, however, said anger over a movie is no excuse for violence.
"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet," she said. "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."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.