The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his staff members were killed in a an attack on the American consulate in the country's eastern city of Benghazi, the White House confirmed Wednesday.
The deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other embassy employees came after an angry mob surrounded the Benghazi consulate Tuesday night to protest a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad that had been promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens supported Libya's transition to democracy.
The mob was armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the Associated Press, but it was not immediately clear how the ambassador or the others were killed.
"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," President Obama said in a statement Wednesday morning.
UPDATE at 7:50 ET: In a statement released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a second individual killed in the attack was named. He is Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, a 21-year diplomatic veteran. The statement said that the names of the two other dead could not be released until next of kin were notified.
Stevens and Smith were among a group of embassy employees who had gone to the consulate earlier to help evacuate staff there as the building came under attack by the armed mob, the AP reports.
Stevens, a career diplomat who spoke Arabic and French, was the first U.S. envoy to the Libyan resistance. He was named ambassador earlier this year.
In Egypt, hundreds of people protesting the film breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday, tearing down and replacing the American flag with a black Islamic banner.
In his statement, President Obama said Stevens and the others killed "exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."
"I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe," the president said. "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."
The State Department website says that Stevens is the sixth U.S. ambassador to be killed by terrorists since 1968 and the first since 1979.
UPDATE at 8:15 ET:
The California-based Israeli filmmaker Sam Bacile, whose movie sparked the protests, went into hiding Tuesday, according to the AP. The two-hour film has been shown just once earlier this year in Hollywood, but a 13-minute English-language trailer of the film, "Innocence of Muslims," was on YouTube.