“Today is a great day for U.S.-Libyan relations.” These were the words said by U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens late last month at the reopening of the U.S. Consular section in Libya.
On Tuesday evening, Stevens, along with three other embassy staff members, were killed. At the time, they were trying to evacuate their office in the country’s eastern city of Benghazi, after it came under attack by armed protesters. A similar incident occurred in Egypt, as angry protesters marched to the U.S. mission in Cairo, where they climbed over walls and reportedly tried to burn the American flag.
The mobs were reacting to a 14-minute YouTube trailer of the film Innocence of Muslims, which depicts the prophet Muhammad as a philander and a fraud. Muslims consider any physical representation of Muhammad to be blasphemous. The two-hour amateur film by Sam Bacile reportedly cost $5 million to make. Based in California, the writer and director has since gone into hiding. The Associated Press (AP) reports that Bacile referred to himself as an Israeli Jew and a real estate developer during a telephone interview on Tuesday. An Israeli off
icial, speaking anonymously, could not verify that Bacile was indeed an Israeli citizen, the AP reports.
Bacile’s identity is currently being challenged by media outlets such as Slate and NPR. Africa.com will update this piece as necessary with more information.
Speaking from the White House, President Barack Obama ordered that security at all U.S. diplomatic posts be tightened. He offered condolence to the deceased, referring to Ambassador Stevens as a “courageous and exemplary representative of the United States.” The 52-year old’s foreign service career began more than two decades ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. He returned to his position as ambassador in Libya in May this year.