Cairo/Washington, September 12: The US ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on Tuesday in the Libyan city of Benghazi, a Libyan official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
It was not clear if the ambassador was in his car or the Libyan consulate when the attack occurred.
"The Libyan ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them," the official in Benghazi told Reuters
An armed mob protesting over a film deemed offensive to Islam attacked Tuesday the US consulate in Benghazi killing an American, hours after angry Islamists stormed Washington's embassy in Cairo.
Libya's deputy interior minister Wanis al-Sharif told AFP: "One American official was killed and another injured in the hand. The other staff members were evacuated and are safe and sound."
He could not say if the dead man was a diplomat.
"Demonstrators attacked the US consulate in Benghazi. They fired shots in the air before entering the building," said Sharif, who is in charge of the country's eastern region.
Abdelmonoem al-Horr, spokesman for the Libyan interior ministry's security commission, said rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the consulate from a nearby farm. Security forces and the interior ministry were trying to contain the situation, he added.
Witnesses said the attackers ripped up an American flag, then looted the consulate before setting it on fire on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
"Dozens of demonstrators attacked the consulate and set fire to it," said a Benghazi resident, who only gave his name as Omar, adding that he had seen the flames and heard shots in the vicinity.
Another Libyan witness said armed men had closed the streets leading up to the consulate, among them Salafists.
The violent protest was strongly condemned by Libya's General National Congress, which in a statement expressed "outrage at the unfortunate attack against the American consulate in Benghazi."
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission."
US officials were working with the Libyans to secure the compound, Nuland said, adding that the earlier protest against the US embassy in Cairo, in which demonstrators scaled the walls, had now ended.
The Libyan incident came after thousands of Egyptian demonstrators tore down the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy in Cairo and replaced it with a black Islamic flag, similar to one adopted by several militant groups.
Nearly 3,000 demonstrators, most of supporters of the Salafist movement, gathered at the embassy in protest over a film deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) which was produced in the United States.
A dozen men scaled the embassy walls and one of them tore down the US flag, replacing it with a black one inscribed with the Muslim profession of faith: "There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God."
Egyptian police intervened without resort to force and persuaded the trespassers to come down. The crowd then largely dispersed leaving just a few hundred protesters outside the US mission, an AFP correspondent reported.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the film, “Innocence of Muslims’, was made by Israeli-American Sam Bacile, a 52-year-old real-estate developer from southern California.
The film is being promoted by controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones, who has drawn protests in the past for burning the Koran and vehemently opposing the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York.
Arab League deputy secretary general, Ahmed Ben Helli, has condemned the film saying it "contained insults against the prophet Mohammed" and "was denounced by Christians and Muslims" across the Arab world.
Tuesday's protests came on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, when US cities were targeted by hijacked planes.
Egyptian activist Wael Ghoneim wrote on his Facebook page that "attacking the US embassy on September 11 and raising flags linked to Al-Qaeda will not be understood by the American public as a protest over the film about the prophet.
"Instead, it will be received as a celebration of the crime that took place on September 11," he said.
Benghazi, a stronghold of Islamist extremists and cradle of the revolution that saw strongman Muammar Gaddafi captured and killed last year, has seen a wave of violence in recent months, including attacks on Western targets, bombings of military buildings and the killings of army and security officers.
Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali has warned that Islamists amount to a "major force" in Libya both in terms of numbers and arms.
Cairo/Washington, September 12: Hundreds of angry protesters set on fire the US consulate in Libya's Benghazi city killing one diplomat, hours after a mob attacked American embassy in Egypt to protest a film deemed offensive to Islam.
Armed men attacked US consulate offices in Libya's second biggest city Benghazi yesterday, and fought with security forces. The gunmen then set the US mission office on fire, killing one diplomat.
In a statement today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed the death of a US diplomat, who was not identified, and condemned the attack on the Benghazi consulate.
"As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack," Clinton said in a statement.
"In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide," she added. Clinton called Libyan President to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.
The Benghazi incident followed a protest in neighboring Egypt where protesters surrounded the US embassy in Cairo, some of them climbing up the walls and tearing down the American flag, to protest the film by a US-based Coptic group. US officials were, however, reluctant to establish any link between the two incidents.
"We cannot confirm any connection between these incidents," a senior State Department official said in response to questions linking the two incidents. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland also confirmed the attack on Benghazi consulate.
"We are working with the Libyans now to secure the compound. We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission," Nuland said.
Nuland also confirmed that the US embassy in Cairo had been breached and the American flag tore down. "We had some people breach the wall, take the flag down and replace it," she said.
Asked if the protesters had replaced the US flag with an al-Qaeda flag, Nuland said she was not sure. "What I heard was that it was replaced with a... plain black flag. But I may not be correct in that," she said.
"In Cairo, we can confirm that Egyptian police have now removed the demonstrators who had entered our Embassy grounds earlier today," Nuland said.
The protesters in Cairo turned out in response to a call by hardline Salafist leader Wesam Abdel-Wareth to protest the low-production movie said to be offensive to Prophet Mohammad.
The film has been produced by expatriate members of Egypt's Christian minority resident in the US. The movie is said to be an old one, but a television channel took up the issue a couple of days back, fanning the fire.
The protesters brought down the US flag at the mission, burnt it and attempted to replace it by a black flag inscribed with: "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet".
The protesters were from different backgrounds, most of them from the hardline Salafi movement, but some of them were supporters of the Mina Daniel leftist movement, and the increasingly politicised football hooligans known as the Ultras. They were also joined in by women wearing veils.
"The black flag, which hangs atop a ladder inside the compound, is adorned with white characters that read, 'There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger,' an emblem often used in al-Qaeda propaganda," CNN reported.
The protests came on a day when the US was observing the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Egyptian activist Wael Ghoneim wrote on his Facebook page that "attacking the US embassy on September 11 and raising flags linked to al-Qaeda will not be understood by the American public as a protest over the film about the Prophet.
"Instead, it will be received as a celebration of the crime that took place on September 11," he said. The attacks on US missions in two countries raised fresh questions about Washington's relations with the Arab world.