(WaPo) — U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed Tuesday in an assault on the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the White House said. In a statement issued by the White House early Wednesday morning, President Obama said he had directed an increase at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world.
Wire services and reporters on the ground said that Stevens and the others were fleeing the consulate when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their vehicle. The identities of the other three dead were withheld pending notification of their families.
Stevens, a longtime Middle East hand in the State Department, was named ambassador to Libya in May. He had worked in Libya for a number of years, both before and after the fall of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.
The attack in Benghazi followed protests in neighboring Egypt, where a group of protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday evening and entered its outer grounds, pulled down an American flag, then tried to burn it outside the embassy walls, according to witnesses. On Wednesday morning, a sit-in of several dozen protesters continued outside the Cairo embassy.
The attacks apparently prompted by outrage over an amateur, anti-Muslim film made in the United States — are likely to prompt a deep rethinking of U.S. policy toward both Libya and Egypt, where the United States supported Arab Spring revolutions and was instrumental in providing financial and diplomatic support for their newly-democratic governments.