U.S., Libya to probe violence after slaying of ambassador

  • **FILE** Yemeni demonstrators climb the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, during a protest against a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Associated Press)**FILE** Yemeni demonstrators climb the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, during a protest against a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Associated Press)
  • A riot policeman passes a burning vehicle during clashes outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo early Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Associated Press)A riot policeman passes a burning vehicle during clashes outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo early Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Palestinians burn a U.S. flag during a protest against the movie, "Innocence of Muslims," near the United Nations office in Gaza City, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Muslim anger over perceived Western insults to Islam has exploded several times, most recently in Tuesday's attacks against U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East in which U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)**FILE** Palestinians burn a U.S. flag during a protest against the movie, "Innocence of Muslims," near the United Nations office in Gaza City, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Muslim anger over perceived Western insults to Islam has exploded several times, most recently in Tuesday's attacks against U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East in which U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • Egyptian protesters carry their national flag and a flag with Arabic that reads "No God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet," and chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 12, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's prophet Muhammad. (Associated Press)Egyptian protesters carry their national flag and a flag with Arabic that reads "No God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet," and chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 12, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's prophet Muhammad. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** U.S. envoy Chris Stevens (center), accompanied by British envoy Christopher Prentice (left), speaks April 11, 2011, to Council member for Misrata Dr. Suleiman Fortia (right) at the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya. (Associated Press)**FILE** U.S. envoy Chris Stevens (center), accompanied by British envoy Christopher Prentice (left), speaks April 11, 2011, to Council member for Misrata Dr. Suleiman Fortia (right) at the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya. (Associated Press)
  • ** FILE ** Libyans walk on the grounds of the gutted U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

** FILE ** Libyans walk on the grounds of the gutted U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
  • Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, after an attack the previous day killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, after an attack the previous day killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
  • A man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The graffiti reads, "no God but God," "God is great," and "Muhammad is the Prophet." The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

A man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The graffiti reads, "no God but God," "God is great," and "Muhammad is the Prophet." The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
  • Libyans walk on the grounds of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

Libyans walk on the grounds of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
  • ** FILE ** Libyans gather at the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

** FILE ** Libyans gather at the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens as President Obama speaks Sept. 12, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on the death of Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya. (Associated Press)Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens as President Obama speaks Sept. 12, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on the death of Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama, followed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, walks to meet with State Department personnel in the courtyard of the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, after speaking at the White House concerning the recent deaths of Americans in Libya. (Associated Press)President Obama, followed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, walks to meet with State Department personnel in the courtyard of the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, after speaking at the White House concerning the recent deaths of Americans in Libya. (Associated Press)
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes comments on the killing of U.S. diplomatic officials in Benghazi, Libya, while speaking in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes comments on the killing of U.S. diplomatic officials in Benghazi, Libya, while speaking in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes comments Sept. 12, 2012, while speaking in Jacksonville, Fla., on the killing of U.S. Embassy officials in Benghazi, Libya. (Associated Press)Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes comments Sept. 12, 2012, while speaking in Jacksonville, Fla., on the killing of U.S. Embassy officials in Benghazi, Libya. (Associated Press)
  • Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. Egyptian protesters, largely ultra conservative Islamists, have climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, went into the courtyard and brought down the flag, replacing it with a black flag with Islamic inscription, in protest of a film deemed offensive of Islam. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. Egyptian protesters, largely ultra conservative Islamists, have climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, went into the courtyard and brought down the flag, replacing it with a black flag with Islamic inscription, in protest of a film deemed offensive of Islam. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
  • Egyptian soldiers stand guard in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding after his movie attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims in Egypt. Arabic on the wall reads, "anyone but God's prophet." (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)Egyptian soldiers stand guard in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding after his movie attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims in Egypt. Arabic on the wall reads, "anyone but God's prophet." (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
  • An Egyptian woman holds a black flag with Islamic inscription in Arabic that reads, "No God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet," in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding after his movie attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims in Egypt. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

An Egyptian woman holds a black flag with Islamic inscription in Arabic that reads, "No God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet," in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding after his movie attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims in Egypt. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
  • Palestinians protest against the movie, "Innocence of Muslims," near the United Nations office in Gaza City, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinians protest against the movie, "Innocence of Muslims," near the United Nations office in Gaza City, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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U.S. and Libyan officials launched investigations Wednesday into a deadly nighttime attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, trying to determine whether it was a premeditated assault by Muslim militants or a mob enraged by a U.S.-produced film that derides Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The attack killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans on Tuesday.

The Obama administration put the entire U.S. diplomatic corps on alert, with increased security at embassies across the globe, in response to the attack, which occurred on the same day that Islamist protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. It was also the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. officials said the Pentagon was moving two warships to Libya’s coast and 50 Marines were being deployed to protect the embassy.

Libyan officials vowed to bring justice to the militants who carried out the assault in Benghazi and denounced the attack as “barbaric.” In Washington, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement condemning “in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.”

But the assaults also became a political issue Wednesday, with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticizing the administration for not having an aggressive posture in its response to the violence in Libya and Egypt. Mr. Obama retaliated, telling CBS News that Mr. Romney “seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”

Top Obama administration officials said they were still struggling late Wednesday to ascertain a clear timeline of how the events unfolded in Cairo and Benghazi.

“We are still here today operating within the confusion of first reports,” said one senior administration official in reference to the Libya attack.

The official said that Mr. Stevens, 52, had remained holed up in the consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi for several hours while it was stormed by armed militants, who set fire to the facility shortly after 10 p.m. there.

U.S. and Libyan security forces eventually regained control of the building about 2 a.m. Wednesday, but only after a lengthy firefight with militants, at least 10 of whom were reported killed.

Senior administration officials said that Mr. Stevens and three other Americans were killed and four wounded in the chaos. The officials were still not clear about how Mr. Stevens died.

Sometime before or after U.S. and Libyan forces had regained control of the building, said one of the officials, “We believe Ambassador Stephens was taken out of the building and to a hospital in Benghazi.”

His body later was returned to U.S. personnel at the Benghazi airport, officials said.

“This was clearly a complex attack,” a senior administration official said. “It’s too early to say who they were.”

A plot by al Qaeda?

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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