Video shows Libyans trying to save US ambassador

Pakistani Sunni Muslims torch a US flag during a protest against an anti-Islam movie in Lahore. (AFP)

Pakistani Sunni Muslims torch a US flag during a protest against an anti-Islam movie in Lahore. (AFP)

The video emerged on 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 and didn't know who he was, only that he was a foreigner, 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. US officials are still trying to piece together how the top American diplomat in Libya got separated from others as staffers were evacuated, suffocating in what is believed to be a consulate safe room.

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."

US and Libyan officials are also trying to determine who was behind the attack. Still unclear was whether it had been planned beforehand or was sparked by the anti-Islam film, the Innocence of Muslims, made in the US that, hours before the Benghazi assault, had sparked protests at the American Embassy in Cairo.

Plotting 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 September 11 anniversary.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said it appeared spontaneous and unplanned, that extremists with heavier weapons "hijacked" the protest and turned it into an outright attack. She noted Libya was awash with weapons.

A CIA memo sent to US lawmakers this weekend, and obtained by the Associated Press, said current intelligence suggested the demonstrations in Benghazi "were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo" and "evolved into a direct assault" on the diplomatic posts by "extremists".

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, "I stepped over a dead man," 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 realised he was a foreigner and still alive.

He was breathing and his eyelids flickered, al-Bakoush said. "He was alive," he said. "No doubt. His face was blackened and he was like a paralysed person."

'Out of the way'
Video taken by al-Bakoush and posted on YouTube shows Stevens being carried out of the room through a window with a raised shutter. "Bring him out, man," someone shouts. "Out of the way, out of the way!"

"Alive, Alive!" come other shouts, then a cheer of "God is great".

The next scene shows Stevens lying on a tile floor, with one man touching his neck to check his pulse. Al-Bakoush said that after that scene, 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. The photographer and student who were with al-Bakoush at the scene gave the same account as he did.

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

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.

The accounts of all three witnesses mesh with that of the doctor who treated Stevens that night.

Nearly lifeless
Dr Ziad Abu Zeid said last week that Stevens was nearly lifeless when he was brought by Libyans, with no other Americans around, to the Benghazi hospital where he worked. He said Stevens had severe asphyxia from the smoke and that he tried for 90 minutes to resuscitate him with no success. Only later did security officials confirm it was Stevens.

Fadl said he drove to the hospital behind the car carrying Stevens.

During the assault, more than 30 US staffers were evacuated from the consulate. So far, US officials have not announced the results of an investigation into the circumstances of the four Americans' deaths.

They have said preliminary reports said that amid the evacuation, Stevens and foreign service officer Sean Smith were inside the consulate with a regional security officer. They got separated in the smoke. The security officer and others went back in to try to find the two of them and found Smith dead. They pulled him out but flames and gunfire forced them to flee before they could find Stevens.

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."

Filmmaker's family in hiding
The family of the producer of Innocence of Muslims has joined him in hiding as more cast members of the film that outraged the Islamic world insisted they had been duped into making it.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and fraudster who was sentenced to 21 months in prison in June 2010, has not been seen since Saturday when he was questioned by his parole officer.

Before dawn on Monday, officers from the Los Angeles County sheriff's department escorted four members of Nakoula's family out of their home to be driven in unmarked police vehicles to an undisclosed location to join him.

The risks now facing those involved in the production of the film, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a thuggish womaniser, were underlined when more threats emerged from the Middle East.

In Egypt, according to the SITE terror monitoring group, Salafist preacher Ahmad Fouad Ashoush issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling on all Muslims to seek the death of the cast and crew of the film.

Nakoula's family concealed their faces as they left their home in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos. Local website Patch, in its Cerritos edition, identified the four as Nakoula's wife, his two sons and a daughter.

'Normal life'
"They decided they would be safer where they could move about and live a normal life," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesperson for the sheriff's department, quoted by ABC News.

"All we did was pick them up and reunite them with Mr Nakoula .... What they told me is that for the time now and for the immediate future, for the weeks and months to come, they will not be returning to this address."

Nakoula had been convicted of aggravated identity theft in connection with a cheque kiting scheme that, according to prosecutors, used false names and Social Security numbers.

He spent about a year in prison before his release on parole. Speculation in US news media on Monday focused on whether his involvement with the film might have violated his terms of parole.

Protests over a YouTube trailer for the anti-Islam film erupted last Tuesday in Egypt as well as in Libya where an armed mob attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and killed US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The demonstrations, sometimes violent, later spread to other Muslim-majority nations in North Africa, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Two more American actors emerged on Monday to discuss the making of the film, saying its anti-Islamic intentions had been concealed from the cast and crew when shooting was under way.

'Playing us all along'
Lily Dionne told CNN she signed on to the project – originally titled Desert Warrior with a central character named George – in response to a casting notice on the Craigslist website.

Dionne, who had just arrived in Hollywood to pursue her acting career, said Nakoula appeared on set to be in total control of the project, to the point of arguing with the director at times.

"He had a vision ... he wanted things a certain way," she said. "He knew what he was doing. He was playing us all along."

Of the plot, she said: "We did wonder what it was about. They kept saying 'George'. Like, this was the Middle East 2 000 years ago. Who's 'George'?"

Later, when the project was in post-production, Dionne and other cast members were called in to record "specific words, like Muhammad, for example. It was isolated. It wasn't in context."

Another actress, Anna Gurji, told how she had auditioned last year for a supporting role in what she called "an indie low-budget feature movie ... about a comet falling into a desert and ancient tribes fighting over it ..."

"A year later, the movie was dubbed [without the actors' permission], the lines were changed drastically and the movie was morphed into an anti-Islam film," she said.

"Even the names of the characters were changed. And the character I had scenes with, GEORGE, became MUHAMMAD," she added, in a letter to British writer Neil Gaiman, who posted it on his blog.

Hezbollah warnings
Hezbollah warned of "very dangerous" global repercussions if an anti-Islam film was released in its entirety, as a fatwa was issued against Nakoula.

Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah warning came on Monday as the death toll from a week of violence sparked by the movie rose to 19.

An eruption of Muslim anger over a trailer of the American-made film that appeared on the internet has spread across the world, taking hold in Afghanistan, Indonesia, the West Bank, the Philippines and Yemen.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of southern Beirut to denounce the film at Nasrallah's request and the head of the powerful Shiite Muslim group surprised supporters by making a rare public appearance.

Nasrallah, whose Lebanese movement is blacklisted in the US as a terrorist group, has called for a week of protests across the country over the film, describing it as the "worst attack ever on Islam".

"America must understand ... the US must understand that releasing the entire film will have dangerous, very dangerous, repercussions around the world," he told the rally.

The risks now facing those involved in the production were underlined when a Salafist cleric in Egypt called on Monday for the deaths of all those involved in its making.

"I issue a fatwa and call on the Muslim youth in America and Europe to do this duty, which is to kill the director, the producer and the actors and everyone who helped and promoted the film," the cleric said.

Furious protests
The controversial movie has sparked a week of furious protests outside US embassies and other American symbols in at least 20 countries.

In Pakistan, thousands of students burned US flags and chanted anti-American slogans in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where Osama bin Laden kept a home during the 1980s jihad against Soviet troops in adjacent Afghanistan.

In the nearby district of Upper Dir, a protester was killed and two others wounded in a shootout with police.

In Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, another demonstrator died after being shot in the head during clashes with police near the US consulate on Sunday.

The US embassy in Islamabad was closed on Monday because of the risk of demonstrations and diplomats have been banned from all but essential travel throughout the country.

In neighbouring Afghanistan, protests turned violent for the first time when more than 1 000 people rallied in Kabul, setting police cars and containers ablaze, police said.

Between 40 and 50 policemen were "very slightly wounded" by stone-throwers and members of the crowd waving sticks, said Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi.

Google has barred access to the video of the film in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya and Malaysia, while the government has restricted access to Google-owned YouTube in Afghanistan.

'Indecent material'
Later, Pakistan blocked access to YouTube after an order from Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to do so, following the video-sharing website's failure to take down the anti-Islam film.

Attempts to access YouTube met with a message saying the website had been classed as containing "indecent material".

In Jakarta, protesters hurled petrol bombs and clashed with Indonesian police outside the US embassy shouting "America, America go to hell", as demonstrations in the world's most populous Muslim nation turned violent.

The capital's police chief Untung Rajab said 11 policemen and a protester were injured and taken to hospital, and that four protesters were arrested.

Mass demonstrations after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday saw 11 protesters killed as police battled to defend US missions from mobs in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

The unrest began in Cairo, where protesters stormed the US embassy late Tuesday, replacing the Stars and Strips with an Islamic flag.

Hours later it spread to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where the US consulate came under sustained attack.

Mobs
In Afghanistan, two US Marines died and six US fighter jets were destroyed when Taliban fighters on Friday stormed a giant airfield to avenge the film.

The US has deployed counter-terror Marine units to Libya to protect its embassy in Tripoli and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.

A Marine unit was also dispatched to protect the US embassy in Yemen, where police shot dead four protesters and wounded 34 others on Thursday as a mob breached its perimeter.

There were more protests in Yemen on Monday.

The US has evacuated all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.

Libya said it has arrested 50 suspects in connection with the consulate attack. – Sapa-AP, AFP, Reuters

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