The U.S. rushed a Marine Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) of counter-terror specialists to Libya Wednesday to bolster security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed by anti-U.S. rioters.
Pentagon officials said about 50 FAST Marines, whose mission is to “augment installation security when a threat condition is elevated beyond the ability of resident and auxiliary security forces,” were flying to Benghazi.
The FAST team will be in charge of providing security for the removal of the four American victims and their return to the U.S., the officials said.
There were no immediate plans to send other FAST teams to Tripoli, Libya, or to Cairo, where demonstrators stormed the walls of the U.S. Embassy. State Department and military officials were “increasing security as needed” worldwide at U.S. installations, a Pentagon official said.
In addition to Stevens, the attacks in Benghazi killed Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith but the identities of the two other American victims were not immediately released. Pentagon officials said initial reports that the two may have been Marine guards could not be confirmed.
In Benghazi on Tuesday, a mob incensed by an anti-Muslim video stormed and looted the U.S. consulate where Stevens was attempting to evacuate U.S. employees. The ambassador, a career diplomat who was the main U.S. liaison to Libyan rebels in the uprising against Muammar el-Qaddafi, was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on his car, according to initial news agency reports.
Earlier in Cairo, the same video mocking the Prophet Mohammed, promoted by a Florida pastor who previously had advocated the burning of Korans, triggered another demonstration that turned violent at the U.S. Embassy, where rioters scaled the walls and burned a U.S. flag.
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," President Obama said in a statement.
"Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice and partnership with nations and people around the globe and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives," Obama said.
“Our hearts break,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the State Department. The four victims “represent the best tradition of a bold and generous nation,” Clinton said, and their deaths will not deter the U.S. from close involvement with Libya and the Mideast. That mission was “both noble and necessary,” she said.
The attacks in Benghazi and Cairo quickly became fodder for the presidential campaigns. Spokesmen for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney charged that the first response of the Obama administration was to “sympathize” with the Muslim beliefs of the attackers.