U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday she has "absolutely no information or reason to believe there is any basis" to suggest that U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens believed he was on an al Qaeda hit list.
The remark came after a source familiar with his thinking told CNN that in the months leading up to his death, Stevens worried about constant security threats in Benghazi and mentioned that his name was on an al Qaeda hit list.
Stevens spoke about a rise in Islamic extremism and al Qaeda's growing presence in Libya, the source said.
The White House, for the first time Thursday, declared the attack that killed Stevens and three other people a terrorist attack.FULL STORY
In a year that has seen the United States record its hottest month ever comes word that the country now owns the title of the hottest air temperature recorded on Earth.
The World Meteorological Organization, the weather and climate agency of the United Nations, has recognized Death Valley, California, as the place where the planet has seen its hottest day ever, July 10, 1913, when it reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 degrees Celsius).
Death Valley was able to lay claim to the title when the U.N. agency invalidated the previous record, 136.4 degrees F (58 degrees C), that was recorded at El Azizia, Libya, on September 13, 1922.
Editor's note: Several protests stemming at least in part from an anti-Islam film produced in the United States are unfolding outside U.S. embassies around the world. Friday's protests follow ones Tuesday at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where attacks killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
In Tunisia, protesters have scaled a U.S. Embassy gate and set fire to cars on the property, a journalist there says. In Egypt, the influential Muslim Brotherhood canceled nationwide protests planned for Friday, but a running battle between police and protesters in Cairo continued into its fourth day.
Follow the live blog below for all of the developments around the world.
[Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET] A ceremony at Maryland's Joint Base Andrews for the returned bodies of the four Americans killed at the Benghazi consulate has ended, and the caskets are being carried to hearses. See the 2:59 and 2:51 p.m. entries for remarks by President Barack Obama, who said the four laid down their lives "in service to us all."
[Updated at 2:59 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama, at a ceremony at Maryland's Joint Base Andrews for the returned bodies of the four Americans killed at the Benghazi consulate, added:
"The United States of America will never retreat from the world. We will never stop working for the dignity and freedom that every (person) deserves. ... Thatâ€™s the essence of American leadership. ... That was their work in Benghazi, and that is the work we will carry on."
At the beginning and toward the end of his remarks, Obama cited the Bible's John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Obama said the four killed Americans laid down their lives "in service to us all."
"Their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Obama said.
[Updated at 2:51 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama, at a ceremony for the returned bodies of the four Americans killed at the Benghazi consulate, is now eulogizing the four at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed Tuesday as gunmen set fire to and fought security forces at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The attack came as protesters outside the compound rallied against a movie that unflatteringly portrays Islamâ€™s Prophet Mohammed. We are starting to get a clearer picture of what happened and why, but many more important and larger questions about the attack in Libya that still remained unanswered.
Who exactly is behind the attack and what was their motivation?
The attack - from people with guns and rocket-propelled grenades - came as people were protesting an anti-Islamic video outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday night, according to official Libyan and U.S. sources. However, itâ€™s not clear whether the protesters were the ones who attacked.
U.S. sources are giving conflicting accounts about whether the attack was planned before the protest and whether the attackers used the protest as a diversion.
Sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say that a pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the consulate â€“ called the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades - is a chief suspect in the attack.
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed Tuesday as gunmen set fire to and fought security forces at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The attack came as protesters outside the compound rallied against a movie that unflatteringly portrays Islamâ€™s Prophet Mohammed. U.S. sources are giving conflicting accounts about whether theÂ attack was planned before the protest and whether the attackers used the protest as a diversion.
If youâ€™re new to the story and need to catch up, here are six key things to know about the incident.
1) What happened?
On Tuesday night, protesters were outside the consulate in Benghazi, demonstrating against the video "Innocence of Muslims," which reportedly was made in California by a producer whose identity is unclear.
Eventually, a group of heavily armed militants "infiltrated the march to start chaos," according to Libyan Deputy Interior Minister WanisÂ al-Sharif.
Editor's note:Â We're listening to you. Readers often post thought-provoking comments about issues in the news, and we like to highlight them when we can.
It has been an eventful week in the Middle East, and readers are talking about a lot of things. Here are three themes that came up:
1. AMBASSADOR KILLED IN ATTACK
A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday's attack that killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say.
Readers shared their thoughts and theories about connections to al Qaeda, and talked about their views on what should be done about the attack.
CNN's sourcesÂ note that the attack followed a call from al Qaeda leader AymanÂ al-ZawahiriÂ for revenge for the death in June of a senior Libyan member of the terror group Abu YahyaÂ al-Libi.Â Several commenters on this particular article were eager to see action taken.
JohnRJohnson:Â "I think, with that phone call, al-ZawahiriÂ has just increased the likelihood that he will soon be vaporized by a missile from out of the blue. Al Qaeda declared war on the United States back in 1998. Since then, I've heard no declarations of peace coming from any of the al Qaeda leadership; therefore they should continue to expect our ongoing efforts to eliminate them from the face of the Earth. Al-Zawahiri is a mental case who gave up being a healer to become a murderer of innocent people. His time will come soon enough."
justice786: "As an American Muslim, I agree with you. Al Qaeda needs to be terminated."
WWWYKI: "Does anybody think trying to make peace with a culture that murders their own daughters in a public setting for the audacity of getting raped is even possible?"
One commenter said they are from Libya and are upset about what happened to Stevens. FULL POST
Before he became U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens warnedÂ in a 2008 diplomatic cable of jihadist sentiment growingÂ not far fromÂ Benghazi.
Stevens, who became ambassador to Libya this year,Â was killed this weekÂ in an attack that U.S. sourcesÂ tell CNN was planned by a pro-al Qaeda group of extremists. While it is not definitively clear whether this group, or what group specifically, is behind the attack, it's clearÂ that StevensÂ expressed concern aboutÂ a radical movement fomenting in the port city of Derna.
In his 2008 missive Stevens, who at the time was U.S. deputy chief of mission in the North African nation, wrote about that "one Libyan interlocutor likened young men in Derna to Bruce Willis' character in the action picture "Die Hard", who stubbornly refused to die quietly."
There is "frustration at the inability of eastern Libyans to effectively challenge" Moammar Gadhafi's regime, Stevens wrote.
That and "a concerted ideological campaign by returned Libyan fighters from earlier conflicts, have played important roles in Derna's development as a wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters in Iraq."
"Other factors include a dearth of social outlets for young people, local pride in Derna's history as a locus of fierce opposition to occupation, economic disenfranchisement among the town's young men. Depictions on satellite television of events in Iraq and Palestine fuel the widespread view that resistance to coalition forces is justified and necessary," Stevens wrote.
Stevens describes Derna: "The lower-middle class neighborhood, comprising poured concrete homes crowded along largely unpaved streets, sits on a hill overlooking the town ... A number of residents were on the streets; however, they were visibly more wary and less friendly than in other Libyan towns."
Editor's Note: Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. This story is continuing to develop. Follow along below for our continued coverage of the attacks, reaction and what impact it will have. For coverage in Arabic, please visit CNN Arabic.
[Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET] U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, referring to last year's revolt of Libyans against Moammar Gadhafi, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that Libyans "rose up last year to free themselves from exactly the kinds of murderers and terrorists who killed our American citizens yesterday in Benghazi."
"Their enemies are our enemies," McCain said.
[Updated at 4:38 p.m. ET] In 2008, Stevens - who then was theÂ deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Libya - warnedÂ in a diplomatic cableÂ aboutÂ jihadist sentiment growingÂ not far fromÂ Benghazi, CNN's Ashley Fantz reports.
[Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET] A statement released on the behalf of the 80 cast and crew members of "Innocence of Muslims," a film that reportedly prompted Tuesday protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, indicates that they are not happy with the film and were misled by the producer.
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose," the statement says. "We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."
As this post has previously noted, U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity say they believe the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi was planned before the protests and was not prompted by the film, and that the attackers perhaps used the protest as a diversion. (See 2:48 p.m. update.)
[Updated at 4:16 p.m. ET] A U.S. official has said that there was no clear stream of intelligence that indicated the Benghazi attack was coming, CNN's Suzanne Kelly reports.
[Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET] Pakistan's foreign ministry has issued a statement condemning the film that reportedly sparked Tuesday protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and perhaps the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. As this post has previously noted, U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity say they believe the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi was not prompted by the film. (See 2:48 p.m. update.)
Here's the Pakistani statement on the film, which it says maligns "the revered and pious personality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)":
"Such abominable actions, synchronized with commemoration of atrocious events like 9/11, provoke hatred, discord and enmity within societies and between peoples of various faiths. The event has deeply hurt the feelings of the people of Pakistan and the Muslims all over the world. Pakistan is a strong proponent of inter-faith harmony and believes that all manifestations of extremist tendencies must be opposed."
[Updated at 3:01 p.m. ET] The Pentagon and other U.S. agencies will review a video of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, according to a senior defense official. The official had not seen the video and provided no details about the source of the video, CNN's Chris Lawrence reported.
[Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET] U.S. sources say they do not believe the attacks that killed Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, were in reaction to the online release of a film mocking Islam, CNN's Elise Labott reports.
"It was not an innocent mob," one senior official said. "The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned military-type attack."
This meshes with information recorded earlier in this post, including that U.S. sources told CNN that the Benghazi attack was planned, and that perhaps a protest against the film was used as a diversion. Also, a London think tank with strong ties to Libya speculated Wednesday that Stevens was the victim of a targeted al Qaeda attack "to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, al Qaeda's second in command killed a few months ago." (See 12:51 p.m. update.)
The Libya attacks came on the same day that protesters in Cairo, Egypt, scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Protesters there reportedly were upset about an online film considered offensive to Islam.
The U.S. sources also say that two U.S. properties were attacked in Benghazi: first, the main compound where Stevens was, and later, and attack on another U.S. compound in Benghazi.
Regarding the attack on the main compound, a U.S. source says three people - Stevens; Sean Smith, a U.S. Foreign Service information management officer; and a security officer - were in a safe room. The house was on fire (CNN has previously reported the building was on fire after a grenade attack), and the security officer got out. The officer then went back in for Stevens and Smith, and he found Smith's body and retrieved it. The officer could not find Stevens, the source said.
CNN previously reported that, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the details of the attack, four Americans - including Stevens and Smith - died after succumbing to smoke inhalation.
[Updated at 2:21 p.m. ET] The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the killing of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"As the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, 'Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.'"
[Updated at 1:41 p.m. ET] Seattle Childrenâ€™s Hospital released the following statement on behalf of the sister of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who is a doctor at the hospital.
"Dr. Anne Stevens is deeply saddened by the tragic death of her brother U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens," the statement said. "She and her family request that you respect their privacy at this time."
[Updated at 1:19 p.m. ET] The ambassador of Libya to the United States, Ali Aujali, released the following statement regarding the attacks:
"We condemn yesterday's deplorable attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and those who are responsible for it in the strongest terms. The Government of Libya stands by the U.S. in opposing acts of terrorism. We are committed to bringing the attackers who perpetrated these crimes to justice.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other American who were killed served the U.S. Government bravely. Ambassador Stevens worked tirelessly in support of freedom in Libya. When Stevens was appointed as Special Representative of the U.S. to the National Transitional Council of Libya in April 2011, he faced enormous challenges. He served as the principal liaison of the U.S. to the opposition in Libya and he helped coordinate the U.S. response to the enormous humanitarian crises in Libya. He handled these responsibilities with a calm demeanor and strong determination in the midst of a war.
After the liberation of Libya, the new Libyan Government was overjoyed to learn that Stevens had been appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. He served in that role with great distinction and all Libyans owe him a debt of gratitude for his years of service in support of Libya. The acts that led to the tragic loss of his life and the other Americans who served with him were perpetrated by a small group of criminals and are not supported by the Libyan people. We stand with the U.S. Government in offering our deepest condolences to the family of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans who were killed and to the entire State Department.
I have had the honor to work side by side with Ambassador Stevens and to call him a friend for many years. I will never forget the zeal and passion that he brought to his work. He was a dedicated diplomat and a true gentleman. The families of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and the two American security staff who were killed in yesterday's terror attack are in our thoughts and prayers today."
[Updated at 1:19 p.m. ET]Â The United Nations Security Council released the following statement with regard to the attack:
"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attack on the United States of Americaâ€™s diplomatic mission and personnel in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September, which resulted in the deaths of four American diplomatic personnel, including the Ambassador, and injuries to diplomatic personnel and civilians. They expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the victims of this heinous act and to their families.
The members of the Security Council also condemned in the strongest terms the attack on the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt on 11 September.
The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these acts to justice.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that such acts are unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed.
The members of the Security Council recalled the fundamental principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises, and the obligations on host Governments, including under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to take all appropriate steps to protect diplomatic and consular premises against any intrusion or damage, and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of these missions or impairment of their dignity, and to prevent any attack on diplomatic agents and consular officers.
In this context, and expressing their deep concern at these attacks, the members of the Security Council called on all authorities to protect diplomatic and consular property and personnel, and to respect their international obligations in this regard.
The members of the Security Council underscored the durable commitment of the international community to support Libyaâ€™s successful transition to a peaceful and prosperous democracy."
[Updated at 1:16 p.m. ET]Â Vice President Biden was delivering remarks at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and had strong words for those responsible for the attack.
"Let me be clear we are resolved to bring to justice their killers. We will work to do just that,"Biden said. "There is no place in the civilized world for senseless murder like what occurred last night."
The conventions have come to a close, and the candidates are back on the campaign trail.Â Watch CNN.com Live for all the latest coverage from the presidential election.
Today's programming highlights...
9:35 am ET - Romney in Florida - GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney may discuss the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya when he speaks at his campaign office in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Libyan government has notified the United States that an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was killed Tuesday, a State Department official told CNN.
The State Department does not have independent confirmation of the death, the official said. The nationality of the worker was not immediately clear.
Earlier Tuesday, a group of militants attacked the consulate, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"We are working with the Libyans now to secure the compound," Nuland said. "We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission."
Members of a radical Islamist group had been protesting at the consulate, a freelance journalist working for CNN in Benghazi said.FULL STORY
Human Rights Watch says it has evidence that the CIA waterboarded one Libyan detainee and brutally interrogated others before handing them over to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
In a 200-plus-page report made public early Thursday, the rights group cites accounts of 14 former detainees and what it describes as "recently uncovered CIA and UK Secret Service documents" found in the sacked offices of Libya's former intelligence chief as proof of the torture and mistreatment.
"The interviews and documents establish that, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S., with aid from the United Kingdom and countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia arrested and held without charge a number" of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group members, Human Rights Watch said.FULL STORY
Saadi Gadhafi, one of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's sons, has asked the United Nations to let him travel outside the African nation of Niger, his lawyer says.
Gadhafi is under a travel ban because the international police agency Interpol has issued a "red notice" for him, calling for his arrest.
But he fears for his safety in Niger, his lawyer Nick Kaufman said. Saadi Gadhafi fled to Niger as his father's regime collapsed last year.
"There has been at least one assassination attempt," although Gadhafi is under government protection, Kaufman told CNN Monday. They also fear that instability in nearby Mali could affect his safety.
The president of the Libyan Olympic Committee has been kidnapped, the committee said Monday.
Ahmad Nabil al-Alam was taken in central Tripoli on Sunday, the organization said.
He was followed by two vehicles and then seized by unidentified gunmen around 4 p.m., the committee said.
The identity and motive of the kidnappers were not immediately known.
A militia group has seized control of the international airport in Tripoli, Libya, a security source said Monday.
Two platoons of the Tarhouna militia moved in overnight because of an ongoing dispute with the national government, sparked by the disappearance of a militia leader on the airport road Sunday, the source said.
The Libyan government sent emissaries to meet with the militia group Sunday night, Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Karim Ahmed Bazama said. The talks were continuing Monday.FULL STORY
Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988, has died in Libya, according to media reports.
He died at home after a battle with cancer, his brother told Reuters news agency.
Al Megrahi was freed from a prison in Scotland in 2009 after serving eight years of a life sentence for blowing up the Pan Am 747, killing all 259 on board and 11 in the town of Lockerbie below.
Doctors who had been treating him for prostate cancer gave him just three months to live, and he was released on compassionate grounds.
He received a hero's welcome upon his return to Libya, enraging many in the United States and Britain.
The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 was the world's deadliest act of air terrorism until the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, according to the FBI.
Al Megrahi was the only person convicted in the case.
As rebels swept into Tripoli two years after al Megrahi's release, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic called for him to be extradited, with the Americans demanding a trial in the United States, and British lawmakers saying he should return to prison in Scotland.
CNN's Nic Robertson tracked al Megrahi down at the palatial villa Moammar Gadhafi had built for him, apparently in a coma and near death.Â Al Megrahi's family said his son and mother were trying to care for him with oxygen and an intravenous drip, but with no medical advice.
Al Megrahi's death may make it impossible ever to get the full story behind the Lockerbie bombing.
CNN's Nic Robertson addresses media reports Lockerbie bomber Abdul Al Megrahi is dead.
Phil Black charts the story of the Lockerbie bombing from the crash of the flight to the release of the convicted bomber.
In a CNN exclusive, Nic Robertson finds Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi in Tripoli.
A leading human rights organization accused NATO on Monday of failing to investigate civilian deaths caused by its air strikes in Libya that aided in the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi.
In a 20-page report titled "Libya: The Forgotten Victims of NATO Strikes," Amnesty International laid out allegations that NATO and the new Libyan government failed not only to document the deaths but has not paid reparations to the victims and their families.
The report said "scores of Libyan civilians who did not directly participate in hostilities were killed and many more injured as a result of NATO strikes," adding that the 28-member nation alliance has yet to address the incidents in the months since it ended the air campaign.
NATO did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment, though it apparently defended its actions in a letter to Amnesty International.
Two British journalists captured by a Libyan militia in late February have been freed, the British government announced Sunday.
Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies "are well" after being turned over to British diplomats "and look forward to being reunited with their families soon," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement announcing their release.
The Saraya Swehli militia accused the journalists, who work mainly for Iran's state-run Press TV, of lacking proper immigration paperwork. But it turned the men over to the central government in Tripoli last week, paving the way for their return.FULL STORY
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has denied taking money from the Gadhafi family during his 2007 run for France's highest office, calling the allegation "grotesque."
He said the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was "known for talking nonsense," and challenged his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi to produce records of the donations.
Sarkozy was responding to allegations which surfaced on the Internet ahead of the French presidential election scheduled for April 22.
"I am sorry that a big channel like TF1 is taking from information from the documents from Mr. Gadhafi or his son," Sarkozy said in the interview, which aired on Monday night on TF1.
"When one quotes Mr. Gadhafi, who is dead, or his son, who is standing trial, the credibility is zero. And when you drag up their accounts with these questions you are asking, you quite degrade this political debate," he said in an attack on interviewer Laurence Ferrari.FULL STORY
Two World War II-era cemeteries that were vandalized over the weekend by armed men in Benghazi will be restored, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said in a posting on its website.
Hundreds of gravestones marking the bodies of Christian and Jewish soldiers were kicked from their locations, many of them broken, in the Benghazi War Cemetery and the Benghazi British Military Cemetery, the CWGC said. "Both cemeteries will be restored to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi, but this could take some time because we will need to source replacement stones," the organization said.
"We will also need to be sure that it's safe for the detailed work to be carried out, but in the meantime we will ensure that temporary markers are erected over the graves. We have no reports of any maintenance staff being injured in the attack."
Britain urged Libya's new leadership Sunday to investigate the desecration of the more than 200 Commonwealth war graves that were vandalized, acts filmed and posted on YouTube.FULL STORY
Libyan authorities were granted more time Tuesday by the International Criminal Court to say whether they plan to hand over the deposed leader's son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.
The ICC decision came as a deadline loomed for Libya's government to respond on the issue.
The late Moammar Gadhafi's son, once seen as his heir apparent, was captured in November after the fall of his father's regime in August. He is being held in the Libyan city of Zintan.
He was facing an arrest warrant from the ICC at the time of his capture, and the court is still seeking to prosecute him.
The ICC asked Libya last month whether Gadhafi was arrested because of the international warrant, if he was being held incommunicado, and if an ICC representative could meet him.FULL STORY