Libyans are expressing their outrage over the burning of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on the streets in Libya and online following the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
According to unconfirmed sources, 10 Libyan security force members at the consulate also died in the attacks.
The response from Libyans in the U.S. and in Benghazi has been to apologize for what happened in their country, calling it “terrorism.”
About 300 Libyans gathered in Alshajra Square on Wednesday and more are expected to gather on Friday.
Najla Daghman, a 44-year-old Libyan eye doctor and activist, says the protests are just the beginning of how Libyans want to make amends for the deaths.
“First of all, I just want to tell how sorry we are for this attack,” said Daghman by phone from Benghazi on Thursday. “We wish you can tell the families our condolences. … And we wish we can protect them better next time.”
Daghman adds that locals there are forming an organization to spearhead an effort to reconstruct the consulate. “People Gathered Together for Benghazi as Economic Capitol” is the rough translation of the name of the organization, she says, adding that she has been asked to become a member and join a meeting this weekend.
She says that the overwhelming sentiment among Libyans is that the death of Ambassador Stevens was a terrorist act.
“We never forget what Christopher did for Benghazi,” said Daghman, who adds that she even saw him around town several times during his tenure. “He supported us. I’m very sorry that’s what he gets back.”
Daghman also says that many locals feel the blame falling on an low-budget, incendiary, anti-Islam movie is misdirected.
“We don’t believe the story about the film,” she insists. “Ayman al-Zawahiri from Al Qaeda came on TV two days ago telling about the killing of [a Libyan member of the terrorist group Abu Yahya al-Libi], who died three months ago. She says people who saw the broadcast, herself included, “felt like this was a code” to do something.
Isobel Coleman, a Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative corroborates that sentiment. Coleman writes on her blog for the Council on Foreign Relations: “[I]n Libya, a heavily-armed terrorist group supportive of al-Qaeda executed what seemed to be a well-planned attack perhaps timed to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary. The protests against the film were likely an additional subterfuge.”
Social media sites have also been ablaze in the days and hours following the attack. A Facebook page called “The Sorry Project” had 1,150 likes by Thursday night Libya time, and is serving as a gateway for communication about upcoming protests against the attack.
According to the page, it is a “project showing that the majority of the Libyan people oppose the crimes and violent actions committed against the U.S. embassy.”
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