The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher
Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the
consulate in Benghazi, by insurgents angered by an anti-Islam film,
the Libyan government and White House confirmed Wednesday.
A mass protest outside the consulate Tuesday against a US-produced film deemed insulting to Prophet Mohammed, was "manipulated" by loyalists of Moamer Gaddafi's deposed regime, the Libyan Interior Ministry said.
Rocket-propelled grenades were used in the attack, which also caused extensive damage to the consulate building, the ministry said.
US President Barack Obama condemned the attack and directed "all necessary resources" to provide security to US interests in Libya and other diplomatic posts worldwide.
"While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants," Obama said.
The Benghazi attack came hours after demonstrators scaled the fortified walls of the US embassy in Cairo and replaced the flag with a black banner, which is popular with radical Islamists, in an unprecedented security breach.
Scores of mainly Islamist protesters were Wednesday staging a sit-in outside the US embassy amid heavy deployment of security forces in Cairo.
Meanwhile, the chief of Libya's National Congress, the country's highest authority, blamed the assault on Gaddafi loyalists and vowed that the culprits will be brought to justice.
"This cowardly deed is an episode in the series of evil and conspiracy against the February 17 revolution (that toppled the Gaddafi regime)," added Mohammed al-Magariaf at a press conference in the capital, Tripoli.
"While we vehemently condemn any attempt to defame our prophet, we strongly denounce any use of force and the killing of innocents as a means of expression," he added.
Al-Magariaf called on Libyans to be united to "block attempts to harm the country's security."
He spoke before his 200-member assembly was to vote to choose a new prime minister whose government's immediate priority will be to restore stability to Libya.
The proliferation of arms, left behind from the conflict that ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule last year, continues to pose a threat to the North African country's security.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Stevens for his two decades of diplomatic service.
"As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi," she said.
"He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started."
French President Francois Hollande called on Libyan authorities to "shed all light on these odious, unacceptable crimes, identify those responsible and bring them to justice."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: "Such violence can never be justified ... It is important that the new Libya continues to move towards a peaceful, secure and democratic future."
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