Wed September 12, 2012
U.S. Sends Marines To Libya After Consulate Attack
Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 5:58 pm
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
We turn now to Washington for more reaction to this brazen attack. The Obama administration is sending a Marine anti-terrorism unit to bolster security in Libya. It's also taking precautions elsewhere. The stepped up security comes as the State Department mourns its losses. NPR's Michele Kelemen has that story.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Shock and sadness hovered over the State Department as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the devastating losses of four foreign service personnel.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: In the lobby of this building, the State Department, the names of those who have fallen in the line of duty are inscribed in marble. Our hearts break over each one and now, because of this tragedy, we have new heroes to honor and more friends to mourn.
KELEMEN: Of the four killed, only two have been identified - information management officer Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran who was on a temporary assignment in Libya, and Chris Stevens, the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
AMBASSADOR JOHN CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: My name is Chris Stevens and I'm the new U.S. ambassador to Libya.
KELEMEN: The 52-year-old was known to take on tough assignments and used this video to introduce himself to Libyans and talk about his hopes to build stronger ties between the U.S. and Libya. As she paid tribute to him, Clinton said Stevens fell in love with the Middle East as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. He spent 21 years in the foreign service and Clinton tapped him in the early days of the revolution in Libya to help the U.S. reach out to opponents of Moammar Gadhafi.
CLINTON: He arrived on a cargo ship in the port of Benghazi and began building our relationships with Libya's revolutionaries. He risked his life to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya.
KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton says Libyans helped take his body to the hospital and she pointed out that U.S. and Libyan forces fought together against the attackers, who Clinton described as a small and savage group. Still, his death raises many questions.
CLINTON: Today, many Americans are asking - indeed I asked myself - how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?
KELEMEN: The Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Muhammad Shalgam, says his countrymen are asking that same question as Libya faces this reality.
ABDURRAHMAN SHALGAM: The authority of the government is still not covering the whole territory of Libya and there are some groups and persons who are outlaw, and the government could not until this moment contain all of them.
KELEMEN: He called the U.S. ambassador's death a big loss to the Libyan people. Those sentiments were shared by Libya's ambassador here in Washington, Ali Ajeli, who counted Chris Stevens as a friend and says he was someone who cared deeply about the Libyan people.
AMBASSADOR ALI AJELI: He was the right man in the right time in the right place, you know. He was the first diplomat from the United States to be on the spot of the revolution and he did a great job. We see him visiting people in their houses. We see him walking in the street and he always welcome wherever he goes, you know. Yeah, it is a great loss, you know.
KELEMEN: As condolences poured in from around the world, President Obama took steps to beef up security in Libya and at embassies elsewhere.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I've also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.
KELEMEN: In his public remarks, President Obama made no mention of the video that sparked the protests in Libya. It ridicules Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Secretary Clinton says the U.S. deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
CLINTON: But let me be clear. There is no justification for this. None. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.
KELEMEN: She and President Obama met with employees in the State Department's courtyard to talk about the work the foreign service does, and the dangers diplomats face.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.