The grenade assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Tuesday was originally thought to have been sparked by rage over an anti-Muslim film made in the U.S.
But U.S sources now tell CNN that the operation was planned by an al-Qaeda offshoot that may have used the angry protest outside as a diversion.
The attack killed the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, 52-year-old Christopher Stevens, as well as three of his colleagues.
Libya's Ambassador to the U.S., Ali Suleiman Aujali, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that he had lost a personal friend in the attack.
“This is one of the saddest days in my life,” Aujali said. “He is a man who knows Libya very well, before and after [the revolution]. He was the man who stood by the Libyan people. He was the right man, in the right place, at the right time. It is a great loss for the Libyan people.”
Stevens played a key role during Libya's revolution last year. He began his job as ambassador only a few months ago.
The Libyan government quickly denounced Tuesday's attack and promised to bring the killers to justice.
Mohammed Al-Megaryef, the head of the ruling GNC party said, "We apologize to the U.S., and to the American people and to the government, and to the rest of the world for what happened yesterday."
The majority of Libyans, 54%, actually approve of U.S. leadership, one of the highest approval ratings Gallup has ever recorded in the Arab World.
Libya has vowed to hunt down the killers and President Obama has insisted they be brought to justice.
Aujali said he’s confident that Libya can deliver.
“In the last few weeks there were also car bombs in Tripoli, and we have been able to capture some of the people responsible for that. And that was a line to lead to us to [the people] responsible and to the financial support they get from overseas.”
Aujali said that it’s imperative Libya find the group that carried out the attack, not just for the sake of the relationship with the U.S., but also for the very stability of the country.
“We must know these cells working in Libya do destabilize Libya – to destabilize our relations with friendly countries.”
A somber U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the attack.
“Today many Americans are asking - indeed I asked myself - how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated - and at times, how confounding - the world can be. But 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.”
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder and CEO of the Cordoba Initiative, told Amanpour, “The Quran states explicitly that no soul shall be responsible for the sins or the crimes of another. And while this film is indeed offensive, and those who have done this have done this deliberately to offend Muslims, we should not kill innocent people."
James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state under president Clinton – and Amanpour’s husband – said of the U.S., “We are a country where the word ‘tolerance’ is built deeply into our system, and we have to make that true both through law enforcement, through education.”
Rubin added, “We can defend somebody’s right to speak but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn what they say. And we have to be very clear on that. And we can’t let the Arab Spring be hijacked by the extremists and remember that it’s a good news story – a positive development for the people of the Middle East.”