An Arab news site has posted pictures apparently showing attempts to rescue the ambassador. You can see them here, but CONTENT WARNING — they are graphic.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three staffers have been killed during an outbreak of violence at the American embassy complex, the White House and State Department have confirmed.
Mr. Stevens has a ten-year history of working in the region and was appointed to his post in Libya in May of this year after successfully working with the rebels during the conflict that removed Col. Gadhafi from power. Stevens’ State Department bio reads:
John Christopher Stevens, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served as Special Representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council from March 2011 to November 2011. Prior to this role, he was the Director of the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs.
“Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” President Obama said in a statement. “Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.”
The news was first reported by Libyan officials who told outlets such as Reuters that the deaths occurred “when gunmen fired rockets at them.”
CNN anchors cited an unnamed source in Benghazi who claims to have witnessed rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) being fired into the complex last night. The source believed the Americans were fleeing the embassy attack when their car was hit by one of the RPGs.
Al Jazeera News reports that Ambassador Stevens has died of “smoke inhalation,” although details are still emerging:
According t the Associated Press, 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 [with] 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.
It’s believed the attacks were a result of an anti-Muhammed movie in the United States sparked the outrage. The attack on the Benghazi consulate took place as hundreds of protesters in neighboring Egypt scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down and replaced the American flag with a black Islamic banner.
Before Tuesday, five U.S. 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.
You can read the statements by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the attack and the ambassador’s death, below:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.
It is with profound sadness that I share the news of the death of four American personnel in Benghazi, Libya, yesterday. Among them were United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals. Our hearts go out to all their families and colleagues.
A 21-year veteran of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Stevens died last night from injuries he sustained in the attack on our office in Benghazi.
I had the privilege of swearing in Chris for his post in Libya only a few months ago. He spoke eloquently about his passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people. This assignment was only the latest in his more than two decades of dedication to advancing closer ties with the people of the Middle East and North Africa, which began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started. Chris was committed to advancing America’s values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger.
Sean Smith was a husband and a father of two, who joined the Department ten years ago. Like Chris, Sean was one of our best. Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal and most recently The Hague.
All the Americans we lost in yesterday’s attacks made the ultimate sacrifice. We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.
America’s diplomats and development experts stand on the front lines every day for our country. We are honored by the service of each and every one of them.
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added. The Associated Press contributed to this report.