The United States on Wednesday vowed to avenge the killings of its ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, moving warships toward the Libyan coast and preparing to track the suspected perpetrators with surveillance drones.
President Barack Obama vowed that “justice will be done” after Mr Stevens, 52, was killed by an Islamist mob in an attack on the US consulate in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. Three other Americans were also killed in the raid, which came on the anniversary of September 11, reports The Telegraph.
“We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act,” President Barack Obama said. “And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
The attack that was initially thought to have been the work of a spontaneous mob, may have been planned and organized in advance, U.S. government officials said on Wednesday.
According to The Huff Post, the officials said that there were indications that members of a militant faction calling itself Ansar al Sharia – which translates as Supporters of Islamic Law – may have been involved in organizing the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya’s second-largest city.
“It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack” and appeared to be preplanned, one U.S. official said.
Another senior official told CNN that American surveillance drones are expected to join the hunt for jihadists who may be tied to the attack. The drones are expected to gather intelligence that will be turned over to Libyan officials for strikes, the official said.
Two American destroyers also are being moved toward the Libyan coast. Both the USS Laboon and USS McFaul are equipped with satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles that can be programmed to hit specific targets.
The FBI also is investigating, the bureau said Wednesday.
Libya’s interim leader, Mohammed Magarief, apologised to the US over the killings, which he called “cowardly criminal acts”.
According to some reports, Ambassador Stevens and his staff went to the consulate in an attempt to evacuate the site after it was attacked.
A second US man killed in the attack was named as Sean Smith, a father of two who was employed as an information management officer, writes the BBC.
The Libyan doctor who treated Ambassador Stevens in hospital said he had died of severe asphyxiation, apparently from smoke inhalation, with no other injuries, and that he had tried for 90 minutes to revive him.
The President paid tribute to the work of Mr Stevens, who had led American diplomatic efforts to liberate Benghazhi last year, saying that he died in a city “he helped save”.
“This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” Mr Obama said, “Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Mr Smith in a statement as “one of the best”.
Clinton said Smith was a 10-year veteran of the State Department, a husband and a father of two. The two other victims had not been named Wednesday evening as the government worked to contact their families.
“This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post,” Clinton said.
The film at the heart of the row, which appeared on Youtube translated into Arabic, is highly provocative and insulting to Muslims.
On Wednesday, the Afghan government gave orders for Youtube to be closed to the public until the offending film was removed but the site was still visible to internet users in the capital, Kabul.