WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday said officials were still trying to determine the motives and methods of the heavily armed men who stormed a U.S. consulate and killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in eastern Libya, calling the attackers a “small and savage group.”
She hailed the slain ambassador, Christopher Stevens, as a veteran diplomat who began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Morocco. He was named envoy to the Libyan rebels early in 2011 to support their uprising against longtime strongman Moammar Kadafi, and first entered their stronghold, Benghazi, on a cargo ship.
“He risked his life trying to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to build a better Libya,” Clinton said at the State Department. She said she had told Stevens' sister, Ann, that “he will be remembered as a hero by many nations.”
Clinton said that Sean Smith, a State Department information technology specialist who also was killed in the attack, was an Air Force veteran and father of two young children. Smith was in Benghazi on a brief assignment.
Clinton said it was “especially difficult that this happened on Sept. 11, an anniversary that means a great deal to all Americans.”
Clinton praised Libyan officials who “stood and fought to protect our post” from the mob and later carried Stevens’ body to the hospital.
She said she hoped the “shared struggle” for a better Libya “will not be another casualty of this attack.”
Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador killed overseas since 1979, when the envoy to Afghanistan was kidnapped and killed.
Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, looks on as President Barack Obama hugs a State Department employee on Wednesday. Credit: Paul J. Richards / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images