Marines, Warships To Libya

This is what's left of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi after a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the building, set fire to it and killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.
This is what's left of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi after a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the building, set fire to it and killed Ambassador Chris Stevens. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: September 13, 2012

BENGHAZI, LIBYA - The U.S. dispatched an elite group of Marines to Tripoli on Wednesday following a mob attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. U.S. officials are investigating whether the violence - initially blamed on an anti-Islamic video - was a terrorist attack planned to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11.

U.S. officials also said that the Pentagon is moving two warships to the Libyan coast. Officials said that one destroyer, the USS Laboon, moved to a position off the coast Wednesday, and the USS McFaul is en route and should be stationed off the coast within days. The officials said that the ships, which carry Tomahawk missiles, do not have a specific mission. But they give commanders flexibility to respond to any mission ordered by the president.

The 50 Marines are part of an elite rapid-response team and they were sent to assess and reinforce security in Libya in the aftermath of the attack. Known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, or FAST, the team's role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to bolster security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide, and the team that went is one of two that are based in Spain; the second team was standing by but had no orders to move, officials said.

Tuesday's stunning attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi poses a daunting task for U.S. and Libyan investigators: searching for the culprits in a city rife with heavy weapons, multiple militias, armed Islamist groups and little police control.

The one-story villa that serves as the consulate was a burned-out wreck after the crowd armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades rampaged through it. Slogans of "God is great" and "Muhammad is God's Prophet" were scrawled across its scorched walls. Libyan civilians strolled freely in charred rooms with furniture and papers strewn everywhere.

President Obama vowed in a Rose Garden address that the U.S. would "work with the Libyan government to bring to justice" those who killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, information manager Sean Smith and two other Americans who were not identified. Three other Americans were wounded.

Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty in 30 years.

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