The protest in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last week appears to have begun spontaneously and was "hijacked" by extremists, said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Libya's president insisted the attackers spent months preparing and choosing their date, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But intelligence so far shows the protest began as "a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response" to rallies in Cairo over a "very offensive video" criticizing Islam, Rice said on ABC's "This Week" program. "As that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons."
Even so, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, disputed Rice's contention. "How spontaneous is a demonstration when people bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons?" he said on CBS .
Libya's interim President Mohammed el-Megarif said yesterday there was no doubt the perpetrators had predetermined the date of the attack. "It was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago," he said.
Mohammed Yussef Magariaf, the recently elected head of Libya's General National Congress, told CBS Sunday that 50 arrests have been made in connection with the attack.
In Cairo Sunday, the U.S. Embassy returned to full staffing for the first time since protesters rallying against the anti-Islam movie breached the compound's walls Tuesday. Egypt's Interior Ministry said 417 people had been arrested in connection with about five days of protests. In Tunisia, 75 were arrested in connection with Friday's attacks on the U.S. Embassy there. Police and protesters clashed outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, and one protester died.
Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, called for protests Monday in Lebanon against the video and said protesters should not only "express anger" at U.S. embassies but urge leaders to act.