Obama condemns attack on U.S. ambassador to Libya

Wednesday - 9/12/2012, 8:14am EDT

Speech by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sept. 12, 2012

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U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and two other Americans were killed in an attack Tuesday on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed the deaths in an official statement issued Wednesday morning. The two other victims have yet to be identified pending notification of next of kin.

"I had the privilege of swearing in Chris for his post in Libya only a few months ago," Clinton said. "He spoke eloquently about his passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people. This assignment was only the latest in his more than two decades of dedication to advancing closer ties with the people of the Middle East and North Africa which began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco."

Chris Stevens (State Dept. photo)

Clinton described Smith as a 10-year State Department employee and "a husband and father of two."

"Like Chris, Sean was one of our best," Clinton said. "Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and most recently The Hague."

Libyan officials said the four Americans were killed Tuesday night when a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters were firing gunshots and rocket propelled grenades. An Associated Press report claimed the attack was made by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The attack came shortly after a protester in Egypt climbed the wall of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, where he removed the American flag and replaced it with a black Islamic banner.

"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a release. "Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."

President Obama said in the release that he was calling for an increase of security at all U.S. diplomatic posts around the world.

"While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants," he said.

The State Department has order all non-emergency, U.S. government personnel to evacuate the embassy and is recommending Americans avoid traveling to Libya.

Stevens' State Department bio described him as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He arrived in Tripoli in May 2012 as the new ambassador, having served in Libya twice before. From March-November 2011, he was the special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council, and, from 2007-2009, he was the deputy chief of mission.

Stevens had previously served as the political section chief and deputy principal officer in Jerusalem and was a political officer in Damascus. Other overseas assignments included being the consular/political officer in Cairo and the consular/economic officer in Riyadh.

In Washington, Stevens served in the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs as its director. Other jobs included being a Pearson Fellow with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and serving the Under Secretary for Political Affairs as a special assistant.

Stevens joined the Foreign Service in 1991. Prior to that, he worked in Washington, D.C., as an international trade lawyer.

A native of Northern California, Stevens earned an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1989, he received his J.D. from the University of California's Hastings College of Law. In 2010, he earned an M.S. from the National War College.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.