Clinton blames 'small and savage group' in Libya for killing ambassador

Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCommunion vote puts spotlight on Hispanic Catholics Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them MORE offered a defense of Libya Wednesday after a mob attack left four Americans dead.

Clinton said many other Libyans helped defend the U.S. consulate in Benghazi from a “small and savage group” of heavily armed militants. She also said Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif had “strongly condemned the violence" and pledged to pursue those responsible. 

The secretary of State's efforts are designed to ward off calls for the United States to disengage from the Middle East following the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.


“Today many Americans are asking — indeed, I asked myself — how could this happen … in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?” a tired and dour Clinton said at a State Department press briefing. “We must be clear-eyed even in our grief: This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.”

She said Stevens and his team were greeted as “friends and partners” wherever they traveled in Libya.

“And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Libyans carried Chris's body to the hospital and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety,” she said. 

“The friendship between our two countries, born out of shared struggle, will not be another casualty of this attack,” she vowed. “A free and stable Libya is still in America's interest ... and we will not turn our back on that.”

Several Libyan security officers were killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate, the Libyan deputy ambassador said, according to the Associated Press.

Clinton vowed that the Obama administration would not rest until the attackers were brought to justice and said that there was “no justification” for the violence, which was sparked by a U.S.-made anti-Islam film.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” Clinton said. “America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me clear: There is no justification for this. None.”

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden nominates Cindy McCain as ambassador to UN food agency Meghan McCain defends 'maverick' Sinema from attacks over filibuster stance GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE (R-Ariz.), a proponent of a strong U.S. presence in the Middle East, praised the speech on Twitter as soon as it was over.

"Just watched an excellent and moving stmt by Sec. Clinton- just the right message and tone," he wrote.

— This story was updated at 11:20 a.m.