The assault on the American consulate in Libya consisted of two separate attacks that forced the Americans from the consulate and then besieged them in a second building in a gunbattle that lasted four and half hours, according to a detailed timeline from a senior administration official.
The bloody offensive by extremists killed Ambassador Christopher Stevensand three other Americans. In addition, three more U.S. personnel were wounded.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Libyan militants a “small and savage group,” and she praised Stevens, who began working in Libya during the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi.
“He risked his life to stop a tyrant and gave his life trying to build a better Libya,” she said.
The attack started with little warning. The U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi began taking fire at 10 p.m. Tuesday night. Within minutes, the attackers were in — firing inside the building.
It would be hours before U.S. personnel regained control. And hours before U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens’ body was recovered.
These details and others emerged late Wednesday, as U.S. officials sought to reconstruct what happened in those chaotic and violent hours in eastern Libya the night before.
The attack on the U.S. Consulate left four dead, including Stevens, and three wounded. Questions have swirled over what instigated the attack, with a number of lawmakers and others speculating that it might have been a coordinated strike timed for the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Speculation is also widespread over Stevens’ exact cause of death.