American Embassy Staff Killed in Coordinated Attacks
Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and/or like-minded groups targeted the United States in attacks staged on the anniversary of 9/11. Protests supposedly inspired by the movie "Innocence of Muslims" — made by Jewish filmmaker Sam Bacile and promoted by extremist pastor Terry Jones — served only as a cover.
It remains unknown as to whether the attackers staged the protest or exploited it. Sources believe Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was brutally killed during the attack, was not intentionally targeted.
A grenade strike started a fire in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which instantly produced a complex and daunting emergency for those inside, senior U.S. official say.
"Folks inside were fighting the fire inside and the attackers outside. It was a cascading casualty, and Amb. Chris Stevens and the others got separated trying to escape to the roof of the building, ultimately succumbing to smoke inhalation," according to one U.S. official.
Prior to the attack, public-affairs officer Larry Schwartz released the following statement while a large mob gathered outside the Cairo embassy in Egypt, which was also attacked:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
The statement has drawn near-universal condemnation, both from conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, and from diplomatic officials in Obama's administration.
Obama's first instinct was to sympathize with the attackers. And when I say Obama, I'm talking about the embassy, Embassy Cairo. You can't separate Barack Obama from any of our embassies. He staffs them. They have like-minded thinkers in there. Barack Obama's in charge of the Foreign Service, he and Hillary Clinton. Their first instinct was to sympathize with the attackers with that statement.
Said an unnamed State Department official:
"The statement was not cleared with anyone in Washington. It was sent as 'This is what we are putting out,'" the official said. "We replied and said this was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions. The next email we received from Embassy Cairo was 'We just put this out.'"