President Obama pledged that yesterday’s grisly attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi won’t undermine the relationship shared by the United States and the new government in Libya.
In a statement at the White House, Obama expressed deep sorrow for the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who succumbed to smoke inhalation after being shelled by demonstrators carrying rocket-propelled grenades. The president called Stevens a tireless employee who helped foster political transition in Libya following the fall last year of longtime ruler Moammar Gaddafi. Prior to being confirmed ambassador in May, Stevens served for months as the U.S.’s special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council.
The president also recognized foreign service office Sean Smith, who lost his life in the attack along with two other embassy staffers.
Obama promised that although Libyans — reportedly fueled by an anti-Muslim film produced by an Israeli-American and promoted by a well-known Egyptian Coptic — were behind the attacks, U.S. support for the infant Libyan government will continue.
“This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” the president said. “Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.”
Echoing a line from his initial response to the attacks last night, Obama acknowledged the film’s role in instigating the incident, but said it could not possibly serve as justification for the violence that took place.
“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.”
The president pledged that American and Libyan officials will work together “to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.”