WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Libya was among four Americans killed Tuesday after being attacked by Muslim protesters at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi over an anti-prophet Muhammad movie.
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens — a former trade lawyer in D.C. — and three members of his staff were killed in the attacks.
Stevens 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 with guns and rocket propelled grenades.
Mohammed Magarief, president of Libya’s national assembly, went on Al-Jazeera television to apologize to the United States for the deadly attacks.
“We apologize to the United States, the people and to the whole world for what happened,” Magarief said.
President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday the United States would “work with the Libyan government to bring to justice” those who killed Stevens and the three other Americans.
“There is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence,” Obama said. “Make no mistake, justice will be done.”
Obama, who ordered an increase in security at U.S. facilities overseas, said he “condemns in the strongest possible terms the outrageous and shocking” attack.
He spoke after Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney condemned the attack, and criticized the administration for its initial response to a separate incident on Tuesday, the breach of the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo had issued a statement saying, in part, that it condemns “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” The statement, an apparent reference to the video, was posted hours before the Americans’ death in Libya was reported.
Stevens is the first U.S. 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 Tuesday as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The Israeli filmmaker based in California behind the movie attacking Islam’s prophet Muhammad went into hiding after the attacks in Egypt and Libya.
Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.
“This is a political movie,” said Bacile. “The U.S. lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re fighting with ideas.”
Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world.
“Islam is a cancer, period,” he said repeatedly, his solemn voice thickly accented.
The two-hour movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” cost $5 million to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it.
The film claims Muhammad was a fraud. An English-language 13-minute trailer on YouTube shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Muhammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.
It depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.
Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any manner, let alone insult the prophet. A Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of 12 caricatures of the prophet triggered riots in many Muslim countries.
Though Bacile was apologetic about the American who was killed as a result of the outrage over his film, he blamed lax embassy security and the perpetrators of the violence.
“I feel the security system (at the embassies) is no good,” said Bacile. “America should do something to change it.”
A consultant on the film, Steve Klein, said the filmmaker is concerned for family members who live in Egypt. Bacile declined to confirm.
Klein said he vowed to help Bacile make the movie but warned him that “you’re going to be the next Theo van Gogh.” Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after making a film that was perceived as insulting to Islam.
“We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” Klein said.
Bacile’s film was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic by someone he doesn’t know, but he speaks enough Arabic to confirm that the translation is accurate. It was made in three months in the summer of 2011, with 59 actors and about 45 people behind the camera.
The full film has been shown once, to a mostly empty theater in Hollywood earlier this year, said Bacile.
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