(JNS.org) The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other diplomats were killed when Libyan extremists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday night.
There are conflicting reports regarding the deaths. One Libyan security official said the ambassador’s convoy had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Another said the diplomats died of smoke inhalation.
The violence in Libya followed a similar attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday when Islamic extremists stormed the embassy’s outer walls and tore down the American flag, replacing it with an Islamic flag. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations condemned both attacks, saying there is “no justification and no legitimization for such violence.”
“We hope that all parties, governmental and non-governmental alike, will strive to restore calm and prevent the exploitation of the situation by extremist elements,” the Conference of President said in a statement.
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said the group affirms “the U.S. government’s statement that those responsible must be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice.”
“The Jewish tradition is unequivocal in its belief that taking one life is akin to destroying the entire world,” Schonfeld said in a statement.
Jewish Council for Pubic Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow said, “As a rabbi, American, and human being, I am shocked and heartbroken by this heinous attack.”
“People of goodwill everywhere should stand up and unequivocally condemn these cold blooded murders,” he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, USA Today reported that Islamists planned the Egypt attack well in advance. The newspaper—citing Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as its source—said that on Aug. 30, a terrorist group called Jamaa Islamiya announced plans to protest the imprisonment of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, its leader and a perpetrator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Additionally, CNN and other outlets reported that the attack on the Libyan embassy was planned by the “Imprisoned Omar Abdel Rahman Brigades” and intended to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, as vengeance for June’s death of an al-Qaeda Libyan deputy in a U.S. drone strike.
The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is the latest embassy attack in Egypt. Last year, protesters stormed the Israeli Embassy there. Meanwhile, in Libya, the government has condemned the deaths and promised to find those responsible. However, the weak central government has had difficulty asserting its authority over the numerous militant factions.