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Middle East Attacks Coordinated to Mark 9/11

By Matthew Lee - September 13, 2012

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The embassy statement that he referred to as akin to an apology was issued at midday on Tuesday in Cairo at a time the embassy staff was aware of still-peaceful demonstrations in the area nearby. It was four or five hours later when the mob breached the compound’s walls and tried to burn a U.S. flag.

Obama told CBS’ ‘‘60 Minutes’’ that Romney ‘‘seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.’’

Obama and Clinton made a rare joint visit to the State Department, where grieving colleagues of Stevens and the other three Americans killed in Benghazi gathered in a courtyard. The president also ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff at government and military buildings and vessels around the world until sunset on Sept. 16. Flags had already been lowered in many places to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Clinton denounced those who might kill over an insulting movie.

‘‘There is no justification for this,’’ Clinton said. ‘‘None. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith and as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.’’

Underscoring the administration’s frustration, Clinton wondered aloud about the attack in Benghazi, which Gadhafi had once threatened to destroy.

‘‘This is not easy,’’ she said. ‘‘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? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, just how confounding, the world can be.’’

‘‘But we must be clear-eyed in our grief,’’ she said, saying the attack was carried out by a ‘‘small and savage group’’ not representative of the Libyan people. She noted that Libyan security guards had tried to fight off the attackers, had carried Stevens’ body to the hospital and led other consulate employees to safety.

Stevens, a 52-year-old career diplomat, was killed after he became separated from other American officials during the consulate attack. It’s unclear when he died: He was taken by Libyans to a hospital, and his remains were delivered hours later to U.S. officials at the Benghazi airport.

Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979, when Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed in Afghanistan.

Three other Americans were also killed and the State Department identified one of them as Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran who had worked as an information management officer for 10 years in posts such as Brussels, Baghdad and Pretoria. Smith was also well-known in the video game community.

The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of relatives.

‘‘The mission that drew Chris and Sean and their colleagues to Libya is both noble and necessary, and we and the people of Libya honor their memory by carrying it forward,’’ Clinton said.

Stevens spoke Arabic and French and had already served two tours in Libya, including running the office in Benghazi during the revolt against Gadhafi. He was confirmed as ambassador to Libya by the Senate earlier this year. 

Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn, Bradley Klapper, Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. 

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Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

Matthew Lee

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