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October 10th, 2012
06:05 AM ET

Consulate attack: What really happened in Benghazi – Arwa Damon reports

The State Department is now providing its most detailed account of the speed, severity and calculation behind last month's attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya. The House Oversight Committee will weigh in on security failings during a hearing later today.

The State Department is saying the attack was not a spontaneous off-shoot of protests, and that security personnel in Benghazi were outmanned – that no reasonable security presence could have fended off the assault. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.

CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon helps us piece together what investigators say happened.

Filed under: Libya
September 20th, 2012
09:35 AM ET

How will US's role in Middle East shape presidential election? CNN's Elise Labott reports

New details have emerged regarding the attack in Benghazi that claimed the lives of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The nation's counterterrorism chief reports to Congress Wednesday that an act of terrorism was responsible for the death of the four Americans killed in Libya.

Sources tell CNN, that Ambassador Stevens expressed concerns about security in the months before he died – specifically mentioning a rise in Islamic extremism and a growing al Qaeda presence in Libya.

Reports from sources also say the Stevens was worried about what he called the never-ending security threats in Benghazi and his name being mentioned on an al Qaeda hit list.

With tensions in the Middle East heating up as the presidential campaigns near election day, how will the US's role in the region shape the race? CNN's foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott explains to John Berman on "Early Start."

Filed under: 2012 election • Libya • Middle East • Politics
September 14th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

Peter Brookes: American response to Middle East unrest ‘appropriate,’ but more can be done

On Early Start this morning, Peter Brookes, the former deputy assistant of the Secretary of Defense, argues that the American response to unrest in the Middle East has been appropriate so far, but that more can be done.

“We have to secure our embassies and make sure that they are not breached,” Brookes adds. “We have to call upon the governments that are responsible for security outside of the embassies.”

The senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation also says that the United States needs to investigate who is responsible for the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Libya. "We've got to figure out who did this," he says. "That's the important thing. You've got to be able to figure out who do it.

Brookes adds that the U.S. must "call on these governments to tamp down the violence, to call on people to restrain from violence."

Filed under: Barack Obama • Egypt • Libya
September 13th, 2012
08:02 AM ET

Amb. Burns: 'A time of testing' for U.S. after protests spread to Yemen, Iran

Across the Middle East protests have occurring in areas like Yemen and Egypt where demonstrators have been scaling embassy walls trying to gain access to interior parts of the compounds. The demonstrations come after a film produced in the United States depicting Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer was released online.

Fmr. U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns says the recent protests are “a time of testing” for the United States. “What we appear to be seeing in Egypt, in Libya and in Yemen are relatively moderate governments who are under some challenge for more conservative... reactionary forces in their own society.” Burns adds that the government forces in these areas are trying “to maintain their position, fend off conservative forces and unfortunately the United States has ended up in the middle of it.”

Some House conservatives are calling for foreign aid to be stripped from Libya and Egypt, while others are considering the message pulling aid might send to the region after the death of a U.S. Ambassador. Burns says, “The United States absolutely has reason to be outraged at what happened to our ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya….I actually think rather than to withdraw the aid right now, our focus should be on getting these Arab leaders to stand up, be accountable in their own societies and be responsible for law and order.”

Filed under: Egypt • Libya • Yemen
September 13th, 2012
08:01 AM ET

Friends remember Ambassador Stevens as caring, committed diplomat who loved Libya

Journalist Harvey Morris reflects on the life of his friend, slain US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.

Morris says Stevens “was so optimistic about the job he was going to take up.” “In fact, when I last saw him in autumn last year, he was slightly concerned he wouldn't get his congressional approval…He was worried about anything that might upset his plans to go to Libya.”

Filed under: Libya
September 13th, 2012
07:52 AM ET

Warships headed to Libya give President Obama additional military option – Barbara Starr reports

In Egypt, Riot police continued firing warning shots and tear gas early Thursday outside their U.S. Embassy in Cairo to prevent protestors from climbing embassy walls. Demonstrators were said to be protesting a film produced in the United States that shows Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer.

CNN’s Barbara Starr says, “People have been waiting for the last couple of days for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy to actually come out in public” and talk about the protests in his country. In his statement, Morsy says the Egyptian security forces will control the situation and will not allow this to happen again.

The U.S. has also began taking precautions. 50 Marines were sent to the U.S. embassy in Tripoli where protests also took place. “They are there to provide internal security only. Nothing else,” says Starr. Two U.S. Navy warships equipped with tomahawk missiles were also sent toward the Libyan coast, which Starr says “will give President Obama… a military option should he choose it- to strike targets in Libya.”

Filed under: Libya • Military • Protests
September 13th, 2012
07:50 AM ET

U.S. compound violence a blow to new Libya – Jomana Karadsheh reports

Protests have been spreading across the Middle East in areas like Yemen where demonstrators breached a security wall on Thursday at the American Embassy in Sana'a. The protests come after an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other consular officials.

Following that attack, “Libyan authorities have beefed up security around the different foreign missions here in Tripoli and in Benghazi,” says Karadsheh. “Two Navy destroyers equipped with Tomahawk missiles have been moved off the coast of Libya and of course drones that will be operating in Libya to try to track down militant cells that were responsible for this attack.”

Karadsheh says originally officials thought the protesting in Libya was taking place over the online release of a film produced in the United States that denigrates Prophet Mohammed but now “that doesn’t seem to be the case.” “More and more indications are surfacing that this was actually a pre-planned attack carried out by extremist groups that are operating in the Eastern part of the country.”

Filed under: Libya • Protests
September 12th, 2012
10:04 AM ET

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Stevens remembered as respected diplomat eager to work with Libyan people

(CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday strongly condemned the killing of the United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, in a rocket attack on the U.S. Consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979.

This morning on "Early Start," CNN's Elise Labott shares stories of Stevens and describes how he was eager to work with Libyan people in his post as US Ambassador.

READ MORE: Obama condemns killing of U.S. ambassador to Libya

Filed under: Libya
September 12th, 2012
09:59 AM ET

Were US compound attacks in Libya & Egypt part of a bigger plot? Fmr. CIA officer Peter Brookes weighs in

Peter Brookes, fmr. Deputy Asst. Sec. of State and fmr. CIA officer, weighs in on the attacks on US compounds in Egypt and Libya and whether the attack against US Ambassador to Libya was part of a bigger plot.

Filed under: Egypt • Libya • Terrorism
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