Senior State Department officials provided a more detailed picture Tuesday of the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. A look at how they say the attack took place:
Sept. 10-11, 2012
Stevens arrives in Benghazi and holds meetings on and off the consulate grounds on Sept. 10. He spends the night, and for the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. holds meetings only inside the compound. It is an enclosed area about 300 yards long by 100 yards wide, with a 9-foot outer wall topped by barbed wire and augmented by barriers, steel drop bars and other security upgrades. There are four buildings in the compound. Five diplomatic security officers are present, along with four members of a local militia deployed by Libya’s government to provide added security.
Around 8:30 p.m.
Stevens finishes his final meeting of the day and escorts a Turkish diplomat outside the main entrance of the consulate. The situation is calm. There are no protests.
Around 9:40 p.m.
Agents hear loud noises, gunfire and explosions near the front gate. A barracks at the entrance housing the local militiamen is burnt down. Agents viewing cameras see large group of armed men flowing into the compound. Alarm is sounded. Telephone calls are made to the embassy in Tripoli, officials in Washington, the Libyan authorities and a U.S. quick reaction force located at a second compound a little over a mile away.
One agent, armed with a sidearm and an M4 submachine gun, takes Stevens and computer specialist Sean Smith to a safe room inside one of the compound’s two main residences. It has a heavy metal grill and several locks, medical supplies and water, and windows that can be opened only from the inside. The other agents equip themselves with long guns, body armor, helmets and ammunition at other buildings. Two try to make it to the building with Stevens. They are met by armed men and are forced to retreat.
Attackers breach the compound
Attackers penetrate Stevens’ building and try to break the grill locks for the safe room, but cannot gain access. They dump jerry cans of diesel fuel in the building, light furniture on fire and set aflame part of the exterior of the building. Two of the remaining four agents are in the compound’s other residence. Attackers penetrate that building, but the agents barricade themselves in and the attackers can’t reach them. Attackers try to enter the tactical operations center, where the last two agents are located. They smash up the door but cannot enter the building.
Meanwhile, Stevens’ building rapidly fills up with thick diesel smoke and burning fumes from the furniture. Inside, visibility is less than 3 feet. Unable to breathe, the Americans go to a bathroom and open a window, but still can’t get enough air. They decide to leave the building. The agent goes first, flopping out onto a patio enclosed by sandbags. He takes immediate fire, including probably rocket-propelled grenades. Stevens and Smith don’t come out of the building. The agent, suffering severely from smoke inhalation, goes in and out of the building several times to look for them. He then climbs a ladder to the roof of the building and collapses. He radios the other agents to alert them to the situation there.