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Ambassador Rice: Benghazi attack began spontaneously

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice recaps the causes and effects of recent violence against Americans in the Middle East.

The attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, apparently began as a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam film before turning violent, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday.

Rice, appearing in NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said she was citing preliminary information and that the FBI was investigating the Tuesday night attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three others.


Libyan officials are holding 30 to 40 suspecting in the deadly attack of a the US embassy in Libya. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

A wave of protests and violence has swept across the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world over an obscure, amateurish movie called "Innocence of Muslims" that depicts Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a pedophile. Anti-U.S. protests in 20 countries led the Pentagon to dispatch elite Marine antiterrorism teams to Libya and Yemen and to position two Navy warships off Libya's coast.

Meanwhile, the State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. government workers and their families out of Sudan and Tunisia. In Lebanon, protesters torched an American fast-food restaurant. Even as tensions appeared to ease over the weekend, al-Qaida's most active Mideast branch was calling for further attacks on U.S. embassies.

"There's no question, as we've seen in the past with things like 'The Satanic Verses,' with the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, there have been such things that have sparked outrage and anger and this has been the proximate cause of what we've seen," Rice said.

“What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video,” Rice said.

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Protesters in Cairo had breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy and tore down the American flag.

In Benghazi, Rice told “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, “Opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding, they came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya, and it escalated into a much more violent episode.”

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There was “no actionable intelligence” that the attack in Benghazi was imminent, Rice said. The attack overwhelmed security in place at the consulate, she said.

Rice’s comments came a day after Libyan President Mohammed Magarief told NBC News that “foreigners” were involved in the planning and execution of the attack.

He expanded on the assertion Sunday, saying on CBS’ "Face the Nation" that about 50 people, not all Libyans, have been arrested in connection with the Benghazi attack, which he said was planned by al-Qaida-linked foreigners, some from Mali and Algeria.

Magarief said there was little doubt the assault was planned rather than a spontaneous reaction to the video, as came on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

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He said the security situation in Libya remained "difficult" for Americans, as well as for Libyans. The United States wants the FBI to investigate the consulate attack, but Magarief said it may be too soon to send in investigators.

"It may be better for them to stay away for a little while until we do what we have to do ourselves," he said.

Rice told "Meet the Press" that the U.S. is working with authorities in Libya, which has received $200 million in U.S. aid since 2011, to bring to justice those responsible for the attack.

This article includes reporting by Reuters.

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