Media reports indicate that some 50 additional Marines are being sent to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya, although U.S. government officials have not confirmed the deployment.
Security also has been beefed up at U.S. embassies around the world although there is no indication that similar enhancements are occurring at military installations in the U.S. Robins Air Force Base officials have not yet responded to questions regarding possible upticks in security and tasking of Robins units.
The furor erupted Tuesday on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when thousands of protesters gathered around the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, reportedly incensed by a 14-minute trailer to a video released on YouTube by a California man. The video, entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” is said to be unflattering of Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.
Some in the Egyptian crowd proceeded to scale the walls of the embassy compound and tear down the American flag, substituting a black flag with an Islamic expression of faith: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet.”
The more serious and tragic incidents proceeded in Benghazi, Libya, where protesters armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the U.S. Consulate. During the melee, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues were killed.
What exactly happened remains unclear. Some media are reporting that Libyan government officials moved Stevens and others to a “safer” building on the consulate compound then told the protesters where they were. The U.S. government has not confirmed that report.
Photos of Libyans carrying Stevens’ half-nude body through the Benghazi streets depicted U.S. allies who were trying to transport the diplomat to the hospital, noted both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. However, others believe his body was being paraded for the benefit of the protesters.
Some reports claim the Libyan and Egyptian protests were timed to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary and had nothing to do with the unflattering California video. Unconfirmed intelligence reports indicate the Libyan attack was carefully coordinated and carried out not by protesters but by trained militants.
They note that Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video on Sept. 11 eulogizing Abu Yahya al-Libi, a top ranking al-Qaida leader killed by a U.S. drone attack in June. The incident in Benghazi was in retaliation for that attack, they believe.
“While the U.S. rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of other,” President Obama said Wednesday in reference to the California video. “We must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
Clinton said American diplomats and development experts risk their lives every day in service to the country.
“They believe that the U.S. must be a force for peace and progress in the world,” she said. “Alongside our men and women in uniform, they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.”
Clinton stressed that the Libyan attacks were carried out by a “small and savage group and not the people or the government of Libya.”
She added that Libyans stood and fought with Americans during the attack.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling contingent in Egypt, has called for the U.S. to prosecute the “madman behind the video.”
The embassy in Egypt had issued a statement regarding the video before the protests began. They said, The U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
That prompted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to sharply criticize the statement.
“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said.