Just minutes after 35 jihadists crashed through the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, nearly one year ago, the facility got word to the State Department, FBI and Pentagon that terrorists were attacking, according to a forthcoming book that provides the fullest review of the assault to date.
In “Under Fire, the Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi,” it is revealed that an unidentified security official in the Benghazi compound protecting Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens messaged the U.S. embassy in Tripoli: “Benghazi under fire, terrorist attack.” Stevens and three others died that night.
Twenty-five minutes after it began, the operation center at State received an electronic cable announcing the attack, according to authors Fred Burton, a former State Diplomatic Security agent and Samuel Katz, an author and expert on international special operations and counterterrorism.
Their findings in “Under Fire,” based on exclusive interviews of those in the battle, refute days of claims by the administration that the attack was sparked by Muslim anger at a U.S.-made anti-Muslim film, and raise new questions as President Obama eyes military action in Syria that U.S. diplomatic posts in the region are properly protected.
The authors note that at the time of the attack in Benghazi there were riots against U.S. embassies in Cairo, Tunis and elsewhere related to the film, “Innocence of Muslims.” That could have been the cause of initial confusion about the attackers, but the eyewitness accounts by State and CIA agents in the battle — backed by live video feeds from drones — should have erased any doubt.
“Benghazi was a malignant symptom,” they wrote, “of a weakened and crippled al Qaeda seeking new battlefields.” They added that the September 11, 2012 attack, exactly 11 years after after al Qaeda’s assault on America, was “to be an opening salvo of a new jihad on the African continent.”
Also revealed for the first time: On her last day as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton summoned four of the five Diplomatic Security agents involved in the Benghazi attack to present them with State’s “Award for Heroism.”
Under Fire, while an unbiased timeline about the heroism of the Diplomatic Security agents, is sure to stoke more criticism of the administration’s handling of the politically-embarrassing attack. It provides a wealth of information that paints a night-long war at the poorly secured consulate and CIA annex that could not be mistaken for anything but a planned terrorist attack by men in vehicles displaying “the black flag of the jihad” and armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers.
It gives details of what drones controlled far from Benghazi flown over the two installations saw — armed attackers, not movie protesters. Sources told Katz and Burton that Images of mortar fire from a Predator drone left operators that night believing that the attackers were “Libyan military veterans of veterans of the jihadist campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Derna.”