US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that while the US rejects all efforts to denigrate the beliefs of others, there is no justification for the type of violence that left four US diplomats dead in Libya a day earlier.
"Make no mistake. We will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Obama strongly condemned the killing of the US ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff as an "outrageous attack" and ordered increased security at US diplomatic posts worldwide.
"Yesterday was already a painful day - 9/11," he said, "then last night we learned news of this attack. As Americans we must never, never forget our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it... sometimes to lay down their lives for it."
"I have directed my administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe," Obama said in a statement after the US diplomats were killed in Benghazi.
"While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants," he said.
Two of four Americans killed Tuesday died in a shooting during an attempt by US forces to evacuate staff from a safe house, Libya's Deputy Interior Minister Wanis Al-Sharif said.
US consular staff were moved to the safe house after the attack on the consul building in the eastern city of Benghazi in which the ambassador was killed, minister Wanis Al-Sharif told a news conference.
A plane with US security units arrived from Tripoli to evacuate other staff but militants discovered the location of the safe house, he said, "It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting."
Two American security personnel were killed in the shooting, Sharif said. Two other people were killed and between 12 and 17 wounded.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu extended his condolences to the US over the deaths of the four members of embassy staff. "Israel stands beside the American people in their grief," he said. "We send our condolences to their families. The state of Israel, which stands at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, and has lost many love ones, identifies deeply with the American people during this time."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier in the day condemned the attack as the work of a "small and savage group" but said US-Libyan ties would not suffer.
"I ask myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?" Clinton said. "This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be."
"But we must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya," she added in a brief appearance.
Clinton said a free and stable Libya was in US interests and that ties between the two countries would not be a "casualty" of the attack.
Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour condemned the killing of the US diplomats as a cowardly act.
The consular official had died after clashes between Libyan security forces and Islamist militants around the consulate building. Looters raided the empty compound and some onlookers took pictures after calm returned.
In neighboring Egypt, demonstrators had torn down an American flag and burned it during the protest. Some tried to raise a black flag with the words "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger," a Reuters witness said.
UN, Russia condemn attack
The United Nations strongly condemned and said the "horrific and tragic attack" further spotlighted the security challenges facing Libyan authorities.
"The United Nations rejects defamation of religion in all forms, but there is no justification for violence such as occurred in Benghazi," UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the UN Security Council during a regularly scheduled briefing on Libya.
Libya's Deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the UN Security Council that an investigation was underway and Libyan authorities would bring those responsible to justice.
"This attack in no way serves the interests of the people or the Libyan authorities and cannot be considered as a defense of Islam," Dabbashi said. "This attack gravely damages the image of Islam."
German UN Ambassador Peter Wittig told reporters before the meeting that the 15-nation Security Council hoped to issue a statement soon condemning the killings.
Russia expressed deep concern on Wednesday over the killings and said it considers all attacks on diplomats to be "manifestations of terrorism."
"Moscow views the events in Cairo and particularly in Benghazi, which led to the tragic deaths of four American diplomats, with deep concern," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"We decisively condemn all attacks on foreign diplomatic representations and their employees as manifestations of terrorism that can have no justification," it said.