The violent deaths of four American diplomatic personnel in Libya during a heavily armed and possibly planned assault on a flimsily protected consulate facility on the Sept. 11 anniversary provoked an uproar in Washington on Wednesday, presenting new challenges in the volatile Middle East less than two months before the American presidential election.
The killings of the four Americans on Tuesday, including the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, also raised basic questions about security and intelligence in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where the assault took place, as well as other American diplomatic facilities elsewhere in the region, where deep-seated anti-American sentiment remains a potent force despite United States support for the Arab Spring uprisings that have transfixed the region for nearly two years.
President Obama denounced the attack, promised to avenge the killings and ordered tighter security at all American diplomatic installations. The administration also dispatched 50 Marines to Libya for greater diplomatic protection, ordered all nonemergency personnel to leave Libya and warned Americans not to travel there, suggesting further attacks were possible. A senior defense official said Wednesday night that the Pentagon was moving two warships toward the Libyan coast as a precaution.