Chris Stevens, an American who risked his life to help Libyans overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi, was killed overnight in the former rebel capital of Benghazi — a city he helped save, making it an especially tragic place for him to die, President Obama said Wednesday.
An Arabic speaker who loved Libya and understood it deeply, Stevens died along with three other Americans when an angry mob stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. He was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.
The consulate was one of several American diplomatic missions in the Middle East to face protests Tuesday after the release online of a film mocking Islam and depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed as a child molester, womanizer and ruthless killer.
But U.S. sources told CNN on Wednesday that the Benghazi attack was planned, and the attackers used the protest outside the consulate as a diversion. The sources could not say whether the attackers instigated the protest or merely took advantage of it, and they say they don’t believe Stevens was specifically targeted.
A senior U.S. official familiar with the details of the attack said a rocket-propelled grenade set the building ablaze, leaving the Americans facing a fire inside and attackers outside. Stevens and the others who died were separated from the rest of the staff while trying to escape to the roof of the building and succumbed to smoke inhalation, the senior official said.