9:20 am UPDATE – The US State Department just released the name of one of the staffers killed in the Libya attack, accordng to Fox News. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith was a husband and father of two. He worked for the department for 10 years. The names of the other victims will not be released until their families are notified. President Barack Obama will host a Rose Garden press conference at approximately 10:35 am.
The US ambassador to Libya and three embassy staffers were killed by a rocket propelled grenade in Benghazi. J. Christopher Stevens, 52, is said to have suffocated in the attack. Protesters in both Cairo and Benghazi are said to have been upset about a video made about the Prophet Muhammed, according to BBC reports.
Unidentified men attacked the embassy, throwing homemade bombs and shooting into buildings on the compound. Ambassador Stevens was being relocated to a safer area when the deadly attack occurred, Reuters notes. The names of the staffers killed in the attack have not yet been released.
According to the BBC, a militia group known as the Ansar al-Sharia is believed to have been involved in the attac, but the group is currently denying the accusations. The gunman initiated their attack late Tuesday evening, setting small fires around the embassy complex. An American contractor working in Libya told CNN that he saw the bodies of Stevens and the staffers on the street early Wednesday morning before they were transferred to the Central Hospital. The US Embassy sent a military plane to fly the remains back home to the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had this to say about the attack:
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. The United States deplores any international effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But let me be clear, there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind. As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation.”
The video, which is said to have prompted the protests in Cairo and Benghazi, was created by Sam Bacile, 52, from California and an Egyptian expatriate. The low-budget production was posted on YouTube and translated into Arabic.
The diplomat began serving at the consulate in May; he also held two earlier posts in the country. Stevens had prior assignments in Saudia Arabia, Syria, and Egypt. Before joining the Foreign Service in 1991, he worked as an international trade attorney, Voice of America reports. During the early 1980s, he taught English in Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer.