What You Need To Know About Chris Stevens’ Death In Libya
Chris Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, was killed yesterday in an attack on the US embassy in Libya. Riots began in both Libya and Egypt last night in response to an inflammatory documentary made by California filmmaker Sam Bacile (who is now in hiding). The film, titled Innocence of Muslims, depicted the Prophet Mohammed in a way considered by the protestors to be ridicule. It portrayed the prophet as a “womanizer, pedophile and fraud,” which is an extreme offense to Muslims. The groups chose American embassies because the film was made in America, and the trailer was hosted on American-based websites like YouTube.
The rioters were armed with grenades and rifles and surrounded the compounds in both Libya and Egypt. In Egypt, protesters tore down the American flag and replaced it with one used by some Islamic extremists, displaying the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his messenger.” In Libya, Stevens and four other embassy employees were killed while attempting to evacuate others before the violence escalated.
Image courtesy of Reuters
Stevens had been a member of the United States Foreign Service since 1991. He served in the Middle East for several of those years and was on his second tour of service to Libya. One reporter remembers Stevens as a man who thrived in difficult situations and who insisted on witnessing the struggles of the people firsthand so that he could aid them better. He was a key player in last year’s overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, risking his life to help the people of Libya on several occasions.
The cities where these events occurred are now being closely watched to ensure that the violence has ended. Citizens are being warned to keep off the streets if possible and not to gather in large groups.
The US embassy in Cairo issued a statement almost immediately after the events occurred, saying “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.” President Obama later issued his own statement, offering consolation and sympathy to the families of those who were killed and to all those affected by the riots. Others have put their focus elsewhere.
Image courtesy of The Guardian
In her statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarified that while “our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation… let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.” Some were upset by the emphasis of the embassy’s statement on the offensive action, rather than on the freedoms the US allows its citizens.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney also weighed in, with his statement being primarily focused on what he felt to be a lack of condemnation of the attacks by the Obama administration. His speech seemed to have been in response to the Cairo embassy’s statement rather than the president’s own (which began with the words “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi”).
Many are criticizing Romney for some of his remarks, including the following:
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
Romney’s statement has been well-received by some who also felt the Cairo embassy’s statement to be lacking, but many others, both on his own side and that of his opponents, have pointed out the impropriety of using the situation as a platform from which to attack President Obama, particularly since the attacks came at a particularly sensitive time for the nation: the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.
Reports are now coming in that yesterday’s events may not have been as spontaneous as had first been assumed, and may instead have been planned. US officials have said that it is possible that the riots were merely a diversion needed in order to take out the ambassador and others, which was either planned in advance or merely taken advantage of to carry out the mission. Information about the attacks and those involved is still coming in.
Written by Emily Yeaton
Header image courtesy of CNN