President Barack Obama will travel to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on Friday to welcome home the remains of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and the three other Americans killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"The President and Secretary Clinton will attend the Transfer of Remains Ceremony marking the return to the United States of the remains of the four Americans killed this week in Benghazi, Libya; the President and Secretary Clinton will deliver brief remarks," the White House said in a statement.
Obama's attendance, announced at the last minute, came as protests spread at American diplomatic facilities across northern Africa, the Mideast and Asia. Demonstrators stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday, tore down the American flag and replaced it with an Islamist banner. The embassy in Yemen came under attack on Thursday.
The president has been working the phones with leaders in the region, calling those in Egypt, Libya and Yemen to urge greater security for American facilities. He has also ordered special Marine units tasked with protecting—and, if necessary, evacuating—embassies and consulates to both Libya and Yemen.
The crisis has raised fresh questions about the direction of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings that toppled authoritarian governments across the region, as well as Washington's efforts to help steer the governments that replaced them in the direction of democratic reforms. Many observers have blamed an American-produced anti-Islam video on the Internet for sparking the demonstrations in powder keg areas that have had little to cheer for since the movement swept the region.