(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late Tuesday confirmed that a State Department officer had been killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, condemning the assault “in the strongest terms.”
Clinton said she had called Libyan President Mohammed al-Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in the country, adding that Magariaf had “expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.”
The protest that turned violent in Benghazi, as well one at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo which saw the compound walls breached and a U.S. flag destroyed, were reportedly sparked by anger over an amateur online movie deemed insulting to the Muslim prophet, Mohammed (see related story).
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” Clinton said in her statement.
“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
Clinton said the government was working with others to protect its diplomatic missions and personnel, and American citizens around the world.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
“Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy,” it said. “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement expressing outrage over the attacks in both Libya and Egypt.
“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,” he said.
Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt subsequently issued a statement in response: “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”