2012 Benghazi Attack

9:40pm: Reaction team arrives

11 Sep, 2012
Benghazi_Compounds_Aerial_View 2

At 9:40 p.m, as the attack started, a senior State Department security officer at the mission called the CIA Annex to requested assistance: “The compound is under attack. People are moving through the gates.” CIA officers at the base can hear the alarm, and a team immediately begins gathering weapons and preparing to leave. 1

According to a Fox News report on October 26, Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex about what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. they were twice told to “stand down”.2 However, on November 1, a senior intelligence official said that CIA officers in Benghazi, “responded to the situation on the night of 11 and 12 September as quickly and as effectively as possible. At every level in the chain of command, from the senior officers in Libya to the most senior officials in Washington, everyone was fully engaged in trying to provide whatever help they could. There was no second-guessing those decisions being made on the ground, by people at every U.S. organization that could play a role in assisting those in danger. There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support.” 3

The CIA base chief calls the February 17 Brigade, other militias and the Libyan intelligence service seeking vehicles with .50-caliber machine guns. Nobody responds. The team leader and the base chief agree at 10:04 that they can’t wait any longer, and a six-person rescue squad from the agency’s Global Response Staff (GRS) leaves in two vehicles, including contractor and ex-Navy SEAL, Tyrone Woods.4 Woods and at least two others make their way to the consulate in a BMW and Mercedes SUV.

At 10:10p.m. The rescue team reaches a chaotic intersection a few blocks from the consulate. Militias gathered there have several .50-caliber machine guns, which the CIA team tries unsuccessfully to commandeer; three militiamen offer to help. The rescue party now includes 10 people: six GRS officers, a CIA translator and the three Libyan volunteers. Reports from Libyan guards say that about 12-16 militia members accompany them.5 A transcription error in earlier press reports refers to 60 militiamen.

One of the guards who was at the mission sees his militia arrive and, thinking it’s safe, comes out of the barracks and heads for C Building. He sees two Americans, including one apparently of Asian descent, who were at the compound from the beginning of the attack, in a Toyota outside the C villa. He tells the Americans to go but they say they have to stay to find the Ambassador. The Asian man has been shot in the hand and the other was covered in smoke.6

The TOC agent who had been manning the phones joins his colleagues outside of Building C. All the agents at this point are suffering from smoke inhalation. The agent that was in the building originally with the Ambassador is very, very severely impacted, the others somewhat less so, but they can’t go back in. The remaining agent, the one that had come from the TOC, and who has the freshest set of lungs, goes into the building himself, though he is advised not to, as do some members of the quick reaction security team. The agent makes a couple of attempts to find Stevens but cannot proceed. He takes his shirt off and dips it in the nearby swimming pool and wraps it around his head, goes in one last time, but still can’t find the Ambassador. Nobody is able to find the Ambassador.7

The attackers begin a fresh, aggressive, barrage of grenades and RPG fire from the southern or back entrance of the consulate compound that lasts 20 minutes. The Americans cannot leave. After several minutes of debating with the February 17th members, the quick reaction team ultimately decided the militia should secure the street outside the north entrance to facilitate their escape in the Mercedes SUV.8

Agents pile into an armored vehicle with Smith’s body and leave through the main gate. They face immediate fire. Crowds and groups of men block two different routes to the security compound. Heavy traffic means they are traveling only about 15 mph and trying not to attract attention. On a narrow street they reach a group of men who signal for them to enter a compound. They sense an attack and speed away, taking heavy fire from AK-47 machine guns at a distance of only two feet and hand grenades thrown against and under the car. Two tires are blown out.9

They speed past another crowd of men and onto a main street and across a grassy median into opposing traffic. The agents drive against traffic, eventually reaching their compound at around midnight. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack.10

The team gets into firing positions around the CIA Annex and on the roof. At 11:56 they are attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms. Sporadic attacks continue for about another hour. 11 According to Fox News the call again for military support. The request is denied. According those present, there were no communications problems at the annex – the team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. 12

The attacks stop at 1:01 a.m., and some assume the fight is over.

  1. Washington Post – In Benghazi timeline, CIA errors but no evidence of conspiracy http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-cias-benghazi-timeline-reveals-errors-but-no-evidence-of-conspiracy/2012/11/01/a84c4024-2471-11e2-9313-3c7f59038d93_story_1.html
  2. Fox News – CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/cia-operators-were-denied-request-for-help-during-benghazi-attack-sources-say/
  3. Reuters – CIA officials in Libya made key decisions during Benghazi attacks http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/02/us-usa-libya-cia-idUSBRE8A102T20121102
  4. Time – The Other 9/11: Libyan Guards Recount What Happened in Benghazi http://world.time.com/2012/10/21/the-other-911-libyan-guards-recount-what-happened-in-benghazi/#ixzz2AzuJHrW8
  5. Time – The Other 9/11: Libyan Guards Recount What Happened in Benghazi http://world.time.com/2012/10/21/the-other-911-libyan-guards-recount-what-happened-in-benghazi/#ixzz2AzuJHrW8
  6. Fox News – CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/cia-operators-were-denied-request-for-help-during-benghazi-attack-sources-say/
  7. Time – The Other 9/11: Libyan Guards Recount What Happened in Benghazi http://world.time.com/2012/10/21/the-other-911-libyan-guards-recount-what-happened-in-benghazi/#ixzz2AzuJHrW8
  8. Fox News – CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/cia-operators-were-denied-request-for-help-during-benghazi-attack-sources-say/
  9. Fox News – CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/cia-operators-were-denied-request-for-help-during-benghazi-attack-sources-say/
  10. Washington Post – In Benghazi timeline, CIA errors but no evidence of conspiracy http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-cias-benghazi-timeline-reveals-errors-but-no-evidence-of-conspiracy/2012/11/01/a84c4024-2471-11e2-9313-3c7f59038d93_story_1.html
  11. Fox News – CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/cia-operators-were-denied-request-for-help-during-benghazi-attack-sources-say/
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