x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Obama tightens security at US diplomatic posts following Libya deaths

US president lifts security at American diplomatic posts worldwide after overnight violence on US embassies in Egypt and Libya causes deaths of US ambassador to Libya and three staff.

WASHINGTON // President Barack Obama today condemned attacks on a US consulate in eastern Libya that killed the US ambassador and three American members of his staff. He ordered increased security at US diplomatic posts around the world.

In a White House statement, Obama said he had ordered “all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.”

The attacks occurred last night in the eastern city of Benghazi by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed the Prophet Mohammed, according to Libya officials. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, was killed 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 guns and rocket propelled grenades.

Three other Americans were also killed.

Stevens is the first US ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979, when Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed in Afghanistan.

The State Department identified one of the other Americans killed as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Obama called Stevens a “courageous and exemplary representative of the United States.”

“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi,” Obama said in the statement. The four Americans, he said, “exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe.”

The Pentagon said early Wednesday that it was working with the State Department on Obama’s order for increased security around the world.

“We are following this tragic incident closely with the State Department,” Lt. Col. Steven Warren, a Defense Department spokesman said. “We are prepared to support the State Department in any way.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said those killed had been “committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.”

Stevens was a career diplomat who spoke Arabic and French and had already served two tours in Libya, including running the office in Benghazi during the revolt against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. He was confirmed as ambassador to Libya by the Senate earlier this year.

His State Department biography, posted on the website of the US Embassy to Libya, says he “considers himself fortunate to participate in this incredible period of change and hope for Libya”.

Clinton said Stevens had a “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,” Clinton said.

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,” she said.

Stevens joined the Foreign Service in 1991 and spent his early State Department career at posts in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Israel. After working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Stevens was posted to Libya as deputy chief of mission.

In that post, Stevens wrote several confidential cables back to Washington, describing Qaddafi's bizarre behavior. During the 2011 revolt against Qaddafi, he was one of the last American diplomats to stay in Tripoli and after the embassy was closed, he was appointed to head the US liaison office to the Transitional National Council.