Libya arrests 50 over US envoy killing
TRIPOLI – (VNS) Libya announced Sunday the arrest of 50 suspects over the killing of the US envoy and three other Americans, blaming the Benghazi attack on foreign extremists and claiming it was pre-planned.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the US military did not plan to bolster its forces in the Middle East and North Africa, despite the threat of more violent protests targeting diplomatic outposts across the region.
The specter of renewed unrest after a relatively peaceful weekend grew with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah calling for a week of protests across Lebanon over the anti-Islamic Internet video stirring up anger in the Muslim world. "The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts," Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's powerful Shiite Muslim organisation, said in a televised speech.
He spoke hours after Pope Benedict XVI left Lebanon following a historic three-day visit in which he prayed that Middle East leaders would work towards peace and reconciliation.
A low-budget trailer for a movie entitled "Innocence of Muslims," believed to have been produced by a small group of extremist Christians in the United States, has sparked furious anti-American protests across the Islamic world. The first unrest was in Cairo, where protesters – reportedly stirred up by clips of the film presented on satellite TV channels and seen on YouTube – stormed the US embassy on Tuesday night, replacing the Stars and Stripes with an Islamic banner.
Hours later, the US consulate in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi came under sustained attack during more protests against the film – four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the assault.
Announcing the arrest of 50 suspects, Libya's parliament chief blamed the attack on a few foreign extremists who he said entered Libya from Mali and Algeria and pre-planned it with local "affiliates and sympathizers."
"It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago," Mohammed al-Megaryef, president of the Libyan National Congress, told US broadcaster CBS television's "Face the Nation." Stevens is believed to have died from smoke inhalation after becoming trapped in the blazing diplomatic compound, which came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms for several hours.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered a different account of the Benghazi assault, saying it began with a "spontaneous" protest over the film and that there was no evidence of pre-planning. AFP