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Obama calls Muslim leaders, sends destroyers to Libya

September 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, Sept 13: The United States on Thursday sent destroyers and Marines to Libya after its ambassador was killed there, as President Barack Obama called Egyptian, Libyan and Afghan leaders to discuss the Muslim reaction to a hate film.

Two US warships and a special unit of 50 Marines were on their way to Libya following Tuesday’s attack on a US compound in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats, US officials said.

One destroyer, the USS Laboon, had moved to a position off the coast by Wednesday, and the USS McFaul was said to be on its way to be stationed off the coast within days, officials said.

The ships are equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

“The US military regularly takes precautionary steps when potential contingencies might arise in a given situation,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. “That’s only logical in certain circumstances.”

At another briefing, a senior US official did not rule out the possibility of Al Qaeda’s involvement in the attack in Benghazi.

“It was clearly a complex attack. We’re going to have to do a full investigation,” he said when asked if he believed Al Qaeda was behind the attack. “The FBI is already committed to assisting in it.”

The US also began evacuating its staff from the mission in Benghazi, where the four US diplomats were killed.

Initial reports said the diplomats were killed by an angry mob as they tried to flee in a car but investigators showed that Ambassador Stevens died from smoke inhalation when suspected militants fired on the US building with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.

Meanwhile, US President Obama called Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf on Wednesday evening to discuss the situation.

“We must work together to do whatever is necessary to identify the perpetrators of this attack and bring them to justice,” he said.

“The President reaffirmed our support for Libya’s democratic transition, a cause Ambassador Stevens believed in deeply and did so much to advance,” the White House said.

In a similar call to Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, Mr Obama “underscored the importance of Egypt following through on its commitment to cooperate with the United States in securing US diplomatic facilities and personnel”.

President Obama told the Egyptian leader that “he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities”.

In a call to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the two presidents “discussed the importance of working together to help ensure that the circumstances that led to the violence in Libya and Egypt do not pose a threat to US forces or Afghans”.