The US ambassador to Libya and three other American citizens have been killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi. The ambassador died after the US Consulate was stormed by an angry mob of hundreds of armed men, after large scale protests during the day against the release of a new film, made by an American film makers, that ridicules the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
A Libyan official said the US ambassador had been on his way to a safer venue after rioters shot and killed another member of staff. It is not clear if he was killed inside the building, or in his car as he attempted to flee.
The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them
According to an interior ministry official, the mob fired shots and stormed the building. Outnumbered by the crowd the consulate security forces were powerless as the crowd set nearby cars alight, broke windows. looted and set fire to the building.
President Obama paid tribute to Ambassador Chris Stephens and the three other American staff killed in the "outrageous" attack.
He also ordered security to be stepped up at US Consulates across the globe. In neighbouring Egypt demonstrators scaled the walls of the US embassy, tore down the American flag and burned it.
President Obama said those killed exemplified "America's commitment to freedom" and said their legacy would endure:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. 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.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.
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.
Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Dr Mustafa Abushagur condemned the attacks as "barbaric" and "cowardly".
I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere.
Amb. Stevens was a friend of Libya and we are shocked at the the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi.
I do condemn the cowardly act of attacking the US consulate and the killing of Mr Stevens and the other diplomats.
Libyan leader Mohammed Magerief appeared on TV to apologise:
We apologise to the United States, the people and to the whole world for what happened
Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was appalled:
There is no justification for such an attack and the appalling death of an US official. My thoughts and condolences are with his family and all his colleagues at the State Department.
It is essential that the Libyan authorities take urgent action to improve security, particularly in Benghazi, and identify those responsible for such attacks.
In a video posted on the US Embassy's YouTube account the recently appointed official talked about his "unique connection to the Arab world" and how excited he was to "help the Libyan people achieve their goals." In his address he said:
I look forward to working with you to build a free, democratic, prosperous Libya.