TRIPOLI - In an escalation in protests against a US-made film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), the US ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on their car.
"The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them," a Libyan official in Benghazi told Reuters on Wednesday, September 12.
The ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed while rushing from the US consulate building stormed by Libyan protestors in Benghazi.
The Libyan official said the US ambassador was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.
The consular officials had died after clashes between Libyan security forces and militants around the consulate building.
Looters raided the empty compound and some onlookers took pictures after calm returned.
Libyan deputy prime minister Mustafa Abu Shagour condemned the killing of the US diplomats as a cowardly act.
The killing came hours after angry protestors stormed the US embassy compound in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in protest at the offensive movie.
The film, titled Innocence of Muslims, was produced and directed by Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real-state developer, who called Islam a cancer.
The film portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur'an.
Though the film was posted on YouTube in June, it drew little attention until last week when an Egyptian-American Copt known for his broadsides against Muslims produced a trailer in an Arabic-language blog post and an e-mail newsletter in English publicizing the movie.
On Wednesday morning, the compound of the US consulate in Benghazi stood empty, with passers-by freely walking in to take a look at the damage.
Walls were charred and a small fire burned inside one of the buildings.
A small group of men was trying to extinguish the flames and three security men briefly surveyed the scene.
A Reuters reporter saw chairs, table and food lying alongside empty shells. Some blood stains could also be seen in front of one of the buildings. Three cars were torched.
Libya's interim government has struggled to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups that have refused to lay down their weapons and often take the law into their own hands.
It was clearly overwhelmed by Tuesday night's attack on the consulate that preceded the assault on the US ambassador.
"The Libyan security forces came under heavy fire and we were not prepared for the intensity of the attack," said Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya's Supreme Security Committee.US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a statement late on Tuesday, confirmed the death of the US consular diplomat in Libya, who was not identified, and condemned the attack there; but she made no mention of an attack on the Ambassador's car.