Evan Vucci, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday the United States would "work with the Libyan government to bring to justice" those who killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
"Make no mistake. Justice will be done," he said in a Rose Garden appearance at the White House.
Obama, who ordered an increase in security at U.S. facilities overseas, said he "condemns in the strongest possible terms the outrageous and shocking" attack.
He spoke after Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney condemned the attack, and criticized the administration for its initial response to a separate incident on Tuesday, the breach of the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
The president spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at his side as the deaths in Libya quickly roiled the U.S. political campaign, now in its final seven weeks.
Stevens, 52, and three other Americans were killed when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob armed with guns and rocket propelled grenades.
The incidents in Benghazi and Cairo were reportedly the work of protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
In his remarks, Obama said: "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence, none."
Romney's criticism appeared limited to an initial statement issued the previous day by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. He said it was "akin to an apology," and that said as president, Obama bears responsibility for it. "They clearly sent mixed messages for the world," he said of the administration.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a warning to all Americans in Cairo early Tuesday morning that it expected there would be demonstrations in the general neighborhood of the embassy. When it became clear later in the day that there would be a demonstration outside the embassy, it issued the statement referenced by Romney.
That statement said that the embassy "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions." The statement was issued before protesters breached the embassy.
Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979, when Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed in Afghanistan. The State Department identified one of the other Americans killed Tuesday as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The White House said Obama was informed Tuesday night that Stevens was not accounted for and was notified Wednesday morning that he had been killed.
In a written statement earlier Wednesday, Obama called Stevens a "courageous and exemplary representative of the United States."
The four Americans, he said, "exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe."
U.S. officials said some 50 Marines were being sent to Libya to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in the aftermath of the attack.
The Marines are members of an elite group known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, whose role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to reinforce security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide.
The officials who disclosed the plan to send the Marines spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
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