Intelligence reports suggest the attack carried out on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday night with mortars and rocket propelled grenades may have been the work of an organized group waiting for an opportunity to strike. The attacks in Cairo — which officials believe were genuinely spontaneous — may have provided that opportunity. President Obama has vowed ‘justice will be done’ for the lives lost in the attack.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three staff members were killed by an angry mob that sacked the American Consulate in Benghazi, reportedly in response to an American-made video mocking the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was also besieged by a crowd of angry Egyptians.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who supported Libyans in their struggle against Moammar Gadhafi last year, is the first U.S. envoy abroad to be killed in more than two decades.

While the killings threaten to spoil U.S. relations with the new Libyan government and dampen Americans’ enthusiasm for the democratic prospects of the Arab Spring, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. viewed the attack as the action of “a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

Tuesday’s violence came on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and was inspired by Egyptian media reports about a 14-minute trailer for the video, called “Innocence of Muslims,” that was released on the Web. The violence provoked by the video recalled the wave of rage and protest in 2005 that followed the publication of 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper lampooning the Prophet Muhammad.

An unidentified Libyan official in Benghazi told Reuters that Mr. Stevens and three staff members were killed in Benghazi “when gunmen fired rockets at them.” It was not clear where in the city the attack took place. The Libyan official said the ambassador was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire, Reuters said.

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