Libya's head of its national assembly formally apologized Wednesday for the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomats in a savage attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Tuesday night.
Mohammed Magarief told a news conference broadcast live on the Al Jazeera pan-Arab television news network, "We confirm that no one will escape from punishment and questioning." He also apologized to the United States for the attack on its consulate in Benghazi in which the diplomats were killed. "Diplomatic missions, foreign companies and citizens of foreign countries in Libya are under the protection the Libyan country and security forces," he said.
Nevertheless, Magarief's words of conciliation belied accusations by a higher-ranked Libyan official who bluntly blamed the United States for the death of its ambassador.
Stevens and three others were killed during an attack by Muslim extremists, which reportedly came in response to the release in Arabic of an American-produced satiric film, "Innocence of Muslims" which they claimed insulted the founder of Islam, their Prophet Mohammed.
A similar attack was carried out against the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier Tuesday evening as well; thousands of rioting Egyptians stormed the building, and more than a dozen scaled the walls to tear down the American flag, ripping it to shreds and then torching it. The flag was replaced by one that was black and bore writing in Arabic.
Libya's Deputy Interior Minister told reporters at a news conference Tuesday night that embassy staff should have been evacuated by the United States as soon as news of the controversial film on the life of the founder of Islam was released.
"They are to blame simply for not withdrawing their personnel from the premises, despite the fact that there was a similar incident, when [Al Qaeda second-in-command and Libyan citizen] Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed,” Minister Wanis al-Sharif told reporters. "It was necessary that they take precautions. It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions,” Sharif repeated.
The "protesters" who attacked the embassy, he added, were more heavily armed than the Libyan security personnel who were assigned to protect the U.S. Consulate. A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was fired at the building from a nearby farm, in addition to gunshots by the rioters. The building was torched, as were several vehicles.
Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur condemned the “cowardly act of attacking the U.S. Consulate and the killing of [the ambassador] and the other diplomats.”
The attack was apparently carried out by a group calling themselves the “Islamic law supporters,” according to Al Jazeera. The bodies of the victims were transported to Benghazi international airport, where they were flown to Tripoli, and then to the U.S. air base in Germany.