Obama continues administration's shift, says Libyan attack not 'just a mob action'

President Obama continued the shift in his administration's language in explaining the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, saying Monday in a taping of "The View" that the assault that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others "wasn't just a mob action."

The comments put further distance between the president and his administration's first description of the attack as a "spontaneous" outburst possibly related to Muslim anger over an anti-Islam video produced in the United States, though questions still remain about the origin of the attack and why the U.S. wasn't able to thwart it.

Even so, Obama condemned extremist elements in the Muslim world and vowed the U.S. is "not going to shrink back from the world because of this."

"We are going to hunt down those who did this," he said. "We will bring them to justice."

Obama and others in his administration have been criticized by Republicans for not taking a more definitive stance against what now appears to have been a coordinated attack on the consulate by extremists with ties to Al Qaeda. His administration only began calling the Sept. 11 strike a "terrorist attack" late last week.

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"There's no doubt" that the assault "wasn't just a mob action" but a sign of extremism in nations lacking stability," Obama said in the taping of the ABC show "The View." "What's been interesting, just this past week, there were these massive protests against these extremists militias that are suspected, maybe, of having been involved in this attack."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meeting with world leaders on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York City, spoke with President Mohammed el-Megaref of Libyam thanking him for the support offered by his government in the aftermath of the attack and praising the Libyan people for overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi last year.

"Courage has been the defining characteristic of the Libyan people over these last two years," she said. "Courage to rise up and overthrow a dictator, courage to choose the hard path of democracy, courage to stand against violence and division in the country and the world."

El-Megaref called the consulate attack "a very painful, huge tragedy, not only for the American people and the families of the victims, but also for the Libyan people." He noted that thousands of Libyans had marched in the streets to protest the attack and said those demonstrations "embodied the conscience of the Libyan people."

"What happened on (the) 11th of September toward these US citizens does not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments toward the American people," he said.

The White House initially said the storming of the consulate attack was a spontaneous assault tied to ongoing protests over a video that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad, but has since broadened its answer to say an investigation will show what ultimately happened.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama taped "The View" -- a clear pitch to women voters -- in New York the day before the president addresses the U.N. General Assembly. The interview, a mix of policy, politics and personal tidbits, will air Tuesday. Obama made a solo appearance on "The View" in July 2010, drawing an estimated 6.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The first lady appeared on the show in late May, where she discussed family life and the re-election campaign.

On Monday, in recalling his hardest day of the last four years, Obama cited the August 2011 downing of a Chinook helicopter by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan that killed 30 American troops. Obama later flew to Dover, Del., to pay tribute to the troops.

"It's very raw in those moments and it reminds you that freedom's not free and these families are taking enormous strain and ours troops are making enormous sacrifices," Obama said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.