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Oct 16

Written by: Diana West
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 6:36 AM 

A friend writes in to underscore the importance of noting also the series of events that befell the consulate survivors on evacuating the sacked and burning compound -- without Amabassador Stevens, whose body wouldn't be recovered until much later. "The description reads like some of Mark Bowden’s descriptions of American servicemen surrounded by hostile crowds and armed gangs in Mogadishu in Black Hawk Down," he writes.

Picking up from this post, here is the State Department background briefing on October 9, 2012:

Here it’s a little harder to understand because I don’t have a diagram that you can show – that I can show you. But in a nutshell, they take fire almost as soon as they emerge from the compound. They go a couple of – they go in one direction toward the annex. They don’t like what they’re seeing ahead of them. There are crowds. There are groups of men. They turn around and go the other direction. They don’t like what they’re seeing in that direction either. They make another u-turn. They’re going at a steady pace. There is traffic in the roads around there. This is in Benghazi, after all. Now, they’re going at a steady pace and they’re trying not to attract too much attention, so they’re going maybe 15 miles an hour down the street.

They come up to a knot of men in an adjacent compound, and one of the men signals them to turn into that compound. They agents at that point smell a rat, and they step on it. They have taken some fire already. At this point, they take very heavy fire as they go by this group of men. They take direct fire from AK-47s from about two feet away. The men also throw hand grenades or gelignite bombs under – at the vehicle and under it. At this point, the armored vehicle is extremely heavily impacted, but it’s still holding. There are two flat tires, but they’re still rolling. And they continue far down the block toward the crowds and far down several blocks to the crowd – to another crowd where this road t-bones into a main road. There is a crowd there. They pass through the crowd and on – turn right onto this main road. This main road is completely choked with traffic, enormous traffic jam typical for, I think, that time of night in that part of town. There are shops along the road there and so on.

Rather than get stuck in the traffic, the agents careen their car over the median – there is a median, a grassy median – and into the opposing traffic, and they go counter-flow until they emerge into a more lightly trafficked area and ultimately make their way to the annex.

Once at the annex, the annex has its own security – a security force there. There are people at the annex. The guys in the car join the defense at the annex. They take up firing positions on the roof – some of them do – and other firing positions around the annex. The annex is, at this time, also taking fire and does take fire intermittently, on and off, for the next several hours. The fire consists of AK-47s but also RPGs, and it’s, at times, quite intense.

As the night goes on, a team of reinforcements from Embassy Tripoli arrives by chartered aircraft at Benghazi airport and makes its way to the compound – to the annex, I should say. And I should have mentioned that the quick reaction – the quick reaction security team that was at the compound has also, in addition to my five agents, has also returned to the annex safely. The reinforcements from Tripoli are at the compound – at the annex. They take up their positions. And somewhere around 5:45 in the morning – sorry, somewhere around 4 o'clock in the morning – I have my timeline wrong – somewhere around 4 o'clock in the morning the annex takes mortar fire. It is precise and some of the mortar fire lands on the roof of the annex. It immediately killed two security personnel that are there, severely wounds one of the agents that’s come from the compound.

At that point, a decision is made at the annex that they are going to have to evacuate the whole enterprise. And the next hours are spent, one, securing the annex, and then two, moving in a significant and large convoy of vehicles everybody to the airport, where they are evacuated on two flights.

So that’s the end of my tick-tock.

Sounds like about 12 hours of hell.

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