The news in Libya is going from bad to worse: U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens has reportedly been killed in a rocket attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Stevens is said to have died from smoke inhalation; journalist Zaid Benjamin tweeted a photo believed to be of the U.S. diplomat after he was killed. Reuters is also reporting that three other embassy staff died in the attack.
As The Cable reported last night, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked last night be an "armed mob," which set fire to the building. As in Cairo, demonstrators were protesting an anti-Islam film that had been largely unknown until this week. The Washington Post reported that the filmmaker, an Israeli living in California, went into hiding after demonstrations broke out in both Libya and Egypt.
Stevens, a career Foreign Service officer who had previously served across the Middle East, had been the point person for U.S. diplomatic efforts during last year’s war to topple Muammar al-Qaddafi. After NATO’s establishment of a no-fly zone, he based himself in Benghazi, where he worked to unite the country’s disparate rebel groups under the Transitional National Council.
It is a tragic irony that the U.S. diplomat who had done so much to free Benghazi from the grip of a dictator that it despised would die at the hands of that city’s residents only months later, in a spasm of religion-fueled hatred.