The US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were killed as an armed mob stormed the consulate in Benghazi in protest against an American film mocking the Prophet Mohamed.
The deaths, in the worst security breach at a US mission for decades, led Barack Obama to order an immediate upgrade of protection for diplomats in other international posts that may be vulnerable.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, pictured, and his team were trying to flee the consulate, which had been set on fire, when their car was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Two US Marines and a press officer, Sean Smith, were shot dead as gunmen surrounded the vehicles.
Mr Stevens, 52, was dragged out by a group of Libyans, according to reports, and taken to hospital. Dr Ziad Abu Ziad said the diplomat had no physical injuries but died of smoke inhalation despite efforts to revive him.
The outpouring of rage in Benghazi followed violent demonstrations in Cairo in reaction to the video, which was dubbed into Arabic and posted on YouTube. Some protesters scaled the embassy walls and burned the American flag while staff were locked inside, protected by US troops.
However, the situation quickly became much more dangerous with the appearance of firearms and, it is claimed, men seen directing the assault. Local guards opened fire to try to halt the mob but were eventually forced to flee as the embassy was looted.
Last night, US officials said they believed the attack in Benghazi may have been pre-planned and that the protests about the film were used a cover. Mohammed Magarief, Libya's interim President, apologised for the "cowardly" killings and pledged that those responsible would be brought to justice. The US administration was braced for possible further attacks in other Muslim countries. Innocence of Muslims was made by Sam Bacile, described in some reports as a 56-year-old Jewish-American property developer from California. He was unapologetic last night, saying: "I feel the security system [at embassies] is no good. America should do something to change it."
He added: "Islam is a cancer. The movie is a political movie, it is not a religious movie. The US lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're fighting with ideas."
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Mr Stevens had been on a short visit to Benghazi from the capital, Tripoli, at the time of his death. A detachment of US Marines is expected to be sent to Libya to guard the embassy.Reuse content