11th September, 2012
An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday and set fire to the building, witnesses reported.
The attack happened on the same day as a similar group of hardliners waving black banners attacked the US embassy in Cairo and tore down the US flag, but it was not immediately clear if the two incidents were coordinated.
The protests came on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, when US cities were targeted by hijacked planes.
“Demonstrators attacked the US consulate in Benghazi. They fired shots in the air before entering the building,” Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif Sharif, who is in charge of the country’s eastern region, told AFP.
“Dozens of demonstrators attacked the consulate and set fire to it,” said a Benghazi resident, who only gave his name as Omar, adding that he had seen the flames and heard shots in the vicinity.
Contacted by AFP, a US State Department official in Washington said US officials were still seeking information about the situation in Benghazi.
Asked whether the attack in Libya and the earlier demonstration against the US mission in Egypt could be connected, the official said it was unclear yet if the protests had been coordinated.
Another Libyan witness said armed men had closed the streets leading up to the consulate, among them ultra-conservative Salafists.
The Libyan incident came as thousands of Egyptian demonstrators tore down the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy in Cairo and replaced it with a black Islamic flag, similar to one adopted by several militant groups.
Nearly 3,000 demonstrators gathered at the embassy in protest over a film deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed which was produced by expatriate members of Egypt’s Christian minority resident in the United States.