UWM World Affairs expert discusses attacks in Libya

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MILWAUKEE -- Chris Stevens, an American who risked his life to help Libyans overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi, was killed overnight in the former rebel capital of Benghazi -- a city he helped save, making it an especially tragic place for him to die, President Obama said Wednesday, September 12th.

An Arabic speaker who loved Libya and understood it deeply, Stevens died along with three other Americans when an angry mob stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. He was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.

A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday's attack, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say.

Several of the country's leaders spoke out Wednesday, condemning the attacks. In the aftermath, many are wondering what the ramifications will be.

Rob Ricigliano is the Institute of World Affairs Director at UW-Milwaukee. He has been getting frequent updates on the Libyan attack, and says there are signs the attack on the American embassy could have been an act of revenge.

"I've seen posts from friends of mine who are in the foreign service who were particularly saddened by Ambassador Stevens -- the fact that he had been killed. It is really interesting also because he was the main U.S. conduit to the rebels in Libya during the whole Libya uprising and was very well-known by that community and the Libyan government," Ricigliano said.

Ricigliano also says the incident makes for a problematic chapter in the relationship between the west and the Muslim world.

"You potentially could see repercussions from this not just in Egypt and Libya -- not just in the middle east but in other Muslim countries throughout the world," Ricigliano said.

The attacks in Libya and an earlier disturbance in Cairo, Egypt was thought to be sparked by an anti-Muslim film produced by a real estate developer in California. Excerpts from the film were dubbed into Arabic.

Ricigliano says the film is akin to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater -- potentially putting troops in Afghanistan, embassy workers and others in danger.

"This is a lot like that to me and I don't think necessarily because someone has the right to have whatever views they want about Islam and Muslims.doesn't mean they can necessarily say whatever they want if that speech actually fringes on the rights of others," Ricigliano said.

According to the Associated Press, the filmmaker has gone into hiding. He told the AP he intended his film to be a political statement condemning Islam.

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