(Newsroom America) -- The U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three of his embassy staff were killed by militants during an attack on the American compound Wednesday as they attempted to flee the building.
Reports said the U.S. consular and his staff were killed by a rocket that had been fired at their vehicle. The embassy was located in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year's uprising against the country's longtime strongman, Muammar Gaddafi.
A Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being evacuated from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.
"The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them," the official in Benghazi told Reuters.
The State Department had no immediate comment over the incident.
U.S. ambassadors in volatile countries are usually assigned tight security, and they usually travel in well-protected convoys.
Meanwhile, demonstrators in neighboring Egypt surrounded the U.S. embassy there, tearing down the American flag and replacing it with a black flag symbolizing Islam.Experts say security officials are likely to examine whether the attacks were coordinated.
Militants were said to be angry over the portrayal of the prophet Mohammad, Islam's most holy figure, in a U.S. film.
"U.S. pastor Terry Jones, who had inflamed anger in the Muslim world in 2010 with plans to burn the Koran, said he had promoted 'Innocence of Muslims,' which U.S. media said was produced by an Israeli-American property developer; but clips of another film called 'Mohammad, Prophet of Muslims,' had been circulating for weeks before the protest," Reuters reported.
That film reportedly portrayed Mohammad a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday night he was "outraged" by the attacks, and criticized President Obama for his muted response.
"I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi," Romney said.
"It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks," he added.
Speaking to Foreign Policy magazine Tuesday prior to reports of the deaths, Romney foreign policy adviser Rich Williamson said the attacks were related to Obama’s “failure to be an effective leader for U.S. interests in the Middle East.”
A few hours later Ben LaBolt, Obama's spokesman, said Romney's comments were out of line.
"We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack," he said in comments published by the Washington Post.
© 2012 Newsroom America.