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American Shot to Death in Libya US Consulate Attack

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A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said.Credit: AFP/Getty Images

CAIRO (TheBlaze/AP) -- Protesters angered over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad fired gunshots and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing one American diplomat, witnesses and the State Department said. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.

It was the first such assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either country, at a time when both Libya and Egypt are struggling to overcome the turmoil following the ouster of their longtime leaders, Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak in uprisings last year.

The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over a film ridiculing Muhammad produced by an American in California and being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed that one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She strongly condemned the attack and said she had called Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif "to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya."

Clinton expressed concern that the protests might spread to other countries. She said the U.S. is working with "partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."

In Benghazi, a large mob stormed the U.S. consulate, with gunmen firing their weapons, said Wanis al-Sharef, an Interior Ministry official in Benghazi. A witness said attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate as they clashed with Libyans hired to guard the facility.

Outnumbered by the crowd, Libyan security forces did little to stop them, al-Sharef said.

The crowd overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said.

One American was shot to death and a second was wounded in the hand, al-Sharef said. He did not give further details.

The violence at the consulate lasted for about three hours, but the situation has now quieted down, said another witness.

"I heard nearly 10 explosions and all kinds of weapons. It was a terrifying day," said the witness who refused to give his name because he feared retaliation.

Hours before the Benghazi attack, hundreds of mainly ultraconservative Islamist protesters in Egypt marched to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Cairo, gathering outside its walls and chanting against the movie and the U.S. Most of the embassy staff had left the compound earlier because of warnings of the upcoming demonstration.

"Say it, don't fear: Their ambassador must leave," the crowd chanted.

Dozens of protesters then scaled the embassy walls, and several went into the courtyard and took down the American flag from a pole. They brought it back to the crowd outside, which tried to burn it, but failing that tore it apart.

The protesters on the wall then raised on the flagpole a black flag with a Muslim declaration of faith, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet." The flag, similar to the banner used by al-Qaida, is commonly used by ultraconservatives around the region.

The crowd grew throughout the evening with thousands standing outside the embassy. Dozens of riot police lined up along the embassy walls but did not stop protesters as they continued to climb and stand on the wall - though it appeared no more went into the compound.

The crowd chanted, "Islamic, Islamic. The right of our prophet will not die." Some shouted, "We are all Osama," referring to al-Qaida leader bin Laden. Young men, some in masks, sprayed graffiti on the walls. Some grumbled that Islamist President Mohammed Morsi had not spoken out about the movie.

A group of women in black veils and robes that left only their eyes exposed chanted, "Worshippers of the Cross, leave the Prophet Muhammad alone."

By midnight, the crowd had dwindled. The U.S. Embassy said on its Twitter account that there will be no visa services on Wednesday because of the protests.

 

This story has been updated.

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