U.S. consulate

Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer, 22, discusses a video he shot that shows civilians removing the body of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens from a small dark room in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the aftermath of the Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012, attack, during an interview with the Associated Press.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Libyans tried to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens, cheering “God is great” and rushing him to a hospital after they discovered him still clinging to life inside the U.S. Consulate, according to witnesses and a new video that emerged Monday from last week’s attack in the city of Benghazi.

The group of Libyans had stumbled across Stevens’ seemingly lifeless form inside a dark room, the man who shot the video and two other witnesses told The Associated Press.

The account underlines the confusion that reigned during the assault by protesters and heavily armed gunmen that overwhelmed the consulate in Benghazi last Tuesday night, killing four Americans, including Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation soon after he was found. U.S. officials are still trying to piece together how the top American diplomat in Libya got separated from others as staffers were evacuated.

The Libyans who found him expressed frustration that there was no ambulance and no first aid on hand, leaving him to be slung over a man’s shoulder to be carried to a car.

“There was not a single ambulance to carry him. Maybe he was handled the wrong way,” said Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer who shot the footage. “They took him to a private car.”

U.S. and Libyan officials are also trying to determine who was behind the attack.

On Sunday, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif contended foreign militants had been plotting the attack for months and timed it for Tuesday’s 9/11 anniversary.

However, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said it appeared spontaneous and unplanned, that extremists with heavier weapons “hijacked” the protest and turned it into an outright attack.

Soon after the attack, Libyan civilians roamed freely around the trashed consulate, its walls blacked and furniture burned. Among them were the videographer al-Bakoush, and a photographer and art student he often works with. They heard a panicked shout and rushed to see what was going on, al-Bakoush said. The body had been found inside a dark room with a locked door accessible only by a window. A group of men pulled him out and realized he was a foreigner and still alive.

The video taken by al-Bakoush and posted on YouTube shows Stevens being carried out of the room through a window with a raised shutter. Al-Bakoush said they put Stevens in a private car to rush to the hospital.

The video has been authenticated since Stevens’ face is clearly visible and he is wearing the same white T-shirt seen in authenticated photos of him being carried away on another man’s shoulders, presumably moments later.

“We were happy to see him alive. The youths tried to rescue him. But there was no security, no ambulances, nothing to help,” Ahmed Shams, the 22-year-old arts student, said.

When they entered the consulate, “there was no one around. There was no fire fighters, no ambulances, no relief,” said the photographer, Abdel-Qader Fadl.

Al-Bakoush and his colleagues said that once they learned his identity, they were stunned Stevens had been alone.

“I’ve never seen incompetence and negligence like this, from the two sides, the Americans and the Libyans,” he said. “You can sacrifice everyone but rescue the ambassador. He is the ambassador for God’s sake.”

A Pakistani protester holds a stone as others hang a flag at the entry of the U.S. consulate during a demonstration in Karachi Pakistan on Sunday. Hundreds of Pakistanis protesting clashed with police while thousands of others held peaceful demonstrations.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan — Hundreds of Pakistanis protesting an anti-Islam film broke through a barricade near the U.S. Consulate in the southern city of Karachi on Sunday, sparking clashes with police in which one demonstrator was killed and more than a dozen injured.

In a move that could escalate tensions around the Arab world, the leader of the Hezbollah militant group called for protests against the movie, saying protesters should not only ‘express our anger’ at U.S. embassies but urge leaders to act.

The film, which denigrates Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, has sparked violent protests in many Muslim countries in recent days, including one in Libya in which the U.S. ambassador was killed. The U.S. has responded by deploying additional military forces to increase security in certain hotspots.

In a televised speech, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the U.S. must be held accountable for the film, which was produced in the United States. The U.S. government has condemned the film.

“The ones who should be held accountable and boycotted are those who support and protect the producers, namely the U.S. administration,” Nasrallah said. He called for protests on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

He urged protesters to call on their leaders to express their anger too.

“We should not only express our anger at an American embassy here or there. We should tell our rulers in the Arab and Muslim world that it is ‘your responsibility in the first place’ and since you officially represent the governments and states of the Muslim world you should impose on the United States, Europe and the whole world that our prophet, our Quran and our holy places and honor of our Prophet be respected,” he told his followers in a televised speech.

Nasrallah said he waited to speak out about the film until Sunday, when Pope Benedict XVI ended his three-day trip to Lebanon.

In Pakistan, police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters in Karachi after they broke through the barricade and reached the outer wall of the U.S. Consulate, police officer Mohammad Ranjha said. The protesters threw stones and bricks, prompting the police to beat back the crowd with their batons. The police and private security guards outside the consulate also fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

One protester was killed during the clash, said Ali Ahmar, spokesman for the Shiite Muslim group that organized the rally.

An official with the main ambulance service in the city, Khurram Ahmad, confirmed they carried away one dead protester and 18 others who were injured.

All Americans who work at the consulate, which is located in the heart of Karachi, were safe, Rian Harris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, said.

Thousands more held peaceful demonstrations against the film in other parts of the country, including the eastern city of Lahore and the northwest city of Dera Ismail Khan.

The demonstration in Lahore was organized by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, believed to be a front organization for a powerful militant group blamed for attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed over 160 people. The protesters shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag.

“Our war will continue until America is destroyed!” shouted some of the protesters. “Dog, dog, America is a dog!” chanted others.

The head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, addressed the crowd and demanded the Pakistani government shut down the U.S. Embassy and all consulates in the country until the filmmakers are punished.

The protests were set off by a low-budget, crudely produced film called “Innocence of Muslims,” which portrays Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.

A 14-minute excerpt of the film, which is both in English and dubbed into Arabic, has been available on YouTube, although . Some countries have cut access to the site.

The violence began Tuesday when mainly Islamist protesters climbed the U.S. Embassy walls in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and tore down the American flag from a pole in the courtyard.

Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, also was killed Tuesday along with three other Americans, as violent protesters stormed the consulate in Benghazi. President Barack Obama has vowed that the attackers would be brought to justice but also stressed that the U.S. respects religious freedom.

In a security shake-up following the attack on the consulate, the Libyan interior minister has fired three security officials in the eastern city, including the head of the Benghazi security sector, and the deputy interior minister in Benghazi, said senior security official Adel Rajouba. The decisions came following a government meeting and the three were fired because of “the lawlessness,” Rajouba said.

The intensity of the anti-American fervor initially caught U.S. leaders by surprise, but in the last several days the Obama administration has called for calm and urged foreign governments to protect American interests in their countries.

“I think that we have to continue to be very vigilant because I suspect that ... these demonstrations are likely to continue over the next few days, if not longer,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters Sunday.

It has been unclear how much of the violence was spontaneously triggered by the film and how much of it was spurred on by anti-American militants using it as a tool to grow and enrage the crowds.

Libya’s Interim President Mohammed el-Megarif said Sunday that the attackers who killed the U.S. ambassador in the country appeared to have spent months preparing and carefully choosing their date — the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He pointed to a second raid on a safe house. “All this indicates clearly that the attackers are well trained and well prepared and have planned this in advance,” he said in an interview.

But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, brushed aside his assessment, saying evidence gathered so far indicated it was a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Islam video and not a premeditated or coordinated strike.

“It seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons,” said Rice, referring to the mortars and rocket-propelled grenades used in the attack.

Whether the attackers had ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups has yet to be determined, U.S. ambassador Susan Rice said, noting that the FBI has yet to complete its investigation.

It wouldn’t be the first time that Western works critical of Islam have triggered spontaneous unrest throughout the Middle East, she said, pointing to the novel “Satanic Verses” by British author Salman Rushdie and the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by a Danish newspaper in 2006.

A semiofficial religious foundation in Iran increased a reward it had offered for killing Rushdie to $3.3 million from $2.8 million, a hard-line Iranian newspaper reported Sunday, a move that appeared to be linked to the protests against the video.

Printed on Monday, September 17, 2012 as: Protests over prophet film continue