US ambassador Chris Stevens had hailed the Libyan revolt that overthrew Moamer Kadhafi, but now appears to have been struck down in a rocket attack by forces unleashed after the strongman’s fall.
Stevens was killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday by Islamists outraged over an amateur American-made Internet video mocking Islam, less than six months after being appointed to his post.
Stevens had served as envoy to the Libyan rebels from the early weeks of the February 2011 revolt, in which NATO aircraft helped rebels overthrow the 40-year-old regime and eventually capture and kill Kadhafi.
In the video, Stevens talked about growing up in California and graduating from the University of California at Berkeley.
He described how he fell in love with the Middle East and North Africa during a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, when he worked as an English teacher in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
He went on to join the State Department and serve as a foreign service officer in Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo and Riyadh.
The Arabic and French-speaking diplomat also served in Libya as deputy chief of mission between 2007 and 2009, shortly after the United States restored relations with Kadhafi’s regime.
It was not immediately clear why Stevens was in the Benghazi consulate at the time of Tuesday’s attack or whether those who pelted the building with rocket-propelled grenades before setting it on fire knew he was there.
During Kadhafi’s reign an Islamist demonstration of the kind that erupted Tuesday night would have been unthinkable, but so would the “free, democratic, prosperous Libya” that Stevens had said he hoped to help bring about.