A State Department official said that the Beirut embassy was not in immediate danger, and that the decision to burn the classified material was a routine one, made by embassy staff.
U.S. embassies and consulates have been under siege in the Middle East for the last week. On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, a group of rioters swarmed over the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Once inside the compound, they tore down and defaced the American flag before hoisting a black flag, alternately described as an Islamist flag and an al Qaeda flag by various news outlets. There were no injuries.
Shortly afterword, the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi came under assault. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack and the consulate building was burned. Details regarding the incident remain murky, with disputed reports circulating that the assault was a planned attack by al Qaeda-aligned operatives.
In the following days the anti-American protests multiplied, with U.S. embassies stormed by mobs in Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The State Department is also warning of planned demonstrations in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Jakarta, Indonesia. British and German embassies in Khartoum, Sudan, have also been attacked.
President Obama has promised that those responsible for the deaths of Americans in Libya will be brought to justice.