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Originally published September 12, 2012 at 1:58 PM | Page modified September 13, 2012 at 6:02 AM

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Ambassador's death stuns sister, friend, Seattle-area Libyans

Seattle-area Libyans condemned the Tuesday attack in Benghazi that led to the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, whose sister is a doctor at Seattle Children's.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle-area Libyans expressed shock and sadness at the attack that led to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi on Tuesday.

J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya who was killed in the attacks, is survived by a sister, Dr. Anne Stevens, who is a doctor at Seattle Children's.

A statement from Children's said she is "deeply saddened by the tragic death" of her brother, and requested privacy.

About 400 people with Libyan roots are estimated to live in the Puget Sound area, and a number of them returned to Libya last year during the revolution and soon after.

One, former University of Washington economics lecturer Ali Tarhouni, played a pivotal role in the revolution, serving as oil and finance minister for Libya's transitional rebel government.

He's now in Benghazi, working with a new political party he established earlier this year, the National Centralist Party, said Rita Zawaideh, a Seattle woman who has known Tarhouni for 30 years.

Zawaideh said she's talked to Tarhouni several times since the attack. He blamed the violence on a "rogue group" that is trying to disrupt progress in Libya, and expressed appreciation for support from President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tarhouni had met with Stevens just two days ago, Zawaideh said.

Rashid Bseikri, a Libyan who lives in Bellevue, said he met Stevens in April 2011 and described him as "such a nice guy — humble, down to earth." Bseikri traveled to Libya when Benghazi was in rebel hands, but the revolution was not yet over.

Bseikri called those responsible for the violence the equivalent of a gang — one of several "just roaming the country ... they need to be reined in."

"We condemn it in the strongest terms," he said of the attacks. "All Libyans are against what happened yesterday."

Paul Feist, a close friend of Stevens since high school, called him "an incredibly brilliant public servant and a great friend. He died in the country he helped save."

Feist, who is vice chancellor of communications for California Community Colleges, said he last saw Stevens in May, at a send-off in California. Stevens was about to head to Washington, D.C., to be sworn in by Clinton, who had arranged a specific date because she wanted to swear him in personally.

"He was highly respected on both sides of the aisle," Feist said.

Feist said Stevens rarely talked about the danger of living in Libya or the battles he'd witnessed, although he told Feist that during the revolution there was a bomb attack just outside the hotel where he was stationed.

Stevens told Feist that he had a security guard with him when he went for his daily run. "I don't think he took anything for granted," Feist said.

But Stevens also loved the culture of the Middle East, a passion that first developed when he was stationed in Morocco for the Peace Corps.

"He was trying to make a difference and help Americans abroad, whether in consular affairs or the diplomatic front," Feist said. "He was especially concerned with Libya, and helping the revolution transform into a democracy."

Seattle resident Koloud "Kay" Tarapolsi, whose mother and two brothers are visiting Libya now, said her family told her there were protests against the violence Wednesday.

Marchers held signs that said "Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans," she said.

"We're just devastated," she said. "It's sickening." She said the Seattle Libyan community sent flowers to Stevens' sister, Anne, on Wednesday.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @katherinelong.

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