President Barack Obama condemned the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left the U.S. ambassador and three other American embassy staff dead. He ordered tighter security at diplomatic posts across the world and will address the situation at 10:35 a.m. Washington time today in the Rose Garden.
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,” Obama said in a statement this morning. “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.”
Violent protests erupted in Libya and Egypt over a film made by an Israeli living in California about the Prophet Muhammad seen as blasphemous by Muslims. The consulate in Benghazi came under rocket attack, Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis El-Sharif, said by phone today. The British Broadcasting Corp. said attackers threw homemade bombs at the compound and that Stevens died as a result of smoke suffocation.
Obama said he rejected “efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” Still, “we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” he said.
Obama’s rejection of religious denigration echoed a statement released yesterday by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, before the deaths of the ambassador or the diplomats were confirmed, condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslim.”
Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign seized on the Cairo-issued statement as evidence that the Obama administration’s first sympathies were with the attackers who overran the Benghazi consulate and briefly took over parts of the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
“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,” Romney said in a statement last night. “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.”
Just after midnight, the Obama campaign responded, and criticized Romney for making what they called a “political attack.”
“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail.
-- With assistance from Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo. Editors: Steven Komarow, Jodi Schneider
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at firstname.lastname@example.org