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Libyan attacks said to be 2-part militant assault

By Osama Alfitory

Associated Press


BENGHAZI, Libya » The attack that killed four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador, was an organized two-part operation by heavily armed militants that included a precisely timed raid on a supposedly secret safe house just as Libyan and U.S. security forces were arriving to rescue evacuated consulate staff, a senior Libyan security official said today.

Wanis el-Sharef, eastern Libya's deputy interior minister, said the attacks Tuesday night were suspected to have been timed to mark the 9/11 anniversary and that the militants used civilians protesting an anti-Islam film as cover for their action. Infiltrators within the security forces may have tipped off militants to the safe house location, he said.

He said an unspecified number of militants suspected of taking part in the attack have been arrested and that others were being closely monitored by police to see whether they are linked to a group. He refused to elaborate.

Ambassador Chris Stevens and another American were killed in the consulate during the initial violence, as plainclothes Libyan security were evacuating the consulate's staff to the safe house about a mile away, el-Sharef said. The second assault took place several hours later and targeted the safe house — a villa inside the grounds of the city's equestrian club — killing two Americans and wounding a number of Libyans and Americans.

El-Sharef, who was running the Interior Ministry's operations room commanding security forces in the city, gave The Associated Press an account of the night's chaotic events.

The crowd built at the consulate — a one-story villa surrounded by a large garden in an upscale Benghazi neighborhood — in several stages, he said. First, a small group of gunmen arrived, then a crowd of civilians angry over the film. Later, heavily armed men with armored vehicles, some with rocket-propelled grenades, joined, swelling the numbers to more than 200.

The gunmen fired into the air outside the consulate. Libyan security guarding the site pulled out because they were too few. "We thought there was no way for the protesters to storm the compound, which had fortified walls," he said. El-Sharef said Libyan security advised the Americans to evacuate at that point, but he says the advice was ignored. There was shooting in the air from inside the consulate compound, he said.

At this point, he said, the crowd stormed the compound. The consulate was looted and burned, while plainclothes security men were sent to evacuate the personnel.

Stevens, he said, is likely to have died of asphyxiation following a grenade explosion that started a fire, el-Sharef said. Ziad Abu Zeid, a Libyan doctor to whom Stevens' body was taken, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the 52-year-old Stevens died of asphyxiation.

U.S. officials have said attackers broke into the main consulate building at around 10:15 p.m. and set the compound on fire. Amid the evacuation, Stevens became separated from others, and staffers and security that tried to find him were forced to flee by flames, smoke and gunfire. After an hour, according to U.S. officials, U.S. and Libyan officials drove the attackers from the consulate.

The next attack came hours later. Around 30 American staffers along with Libyans had been evacuated to the safe house while a plane arrived from Tripoli with a joint U.S.-Libyan security group that was to fly them back to the capital, el-Sharef said.

El-Sharef said the original plan was for a separate Libyan security unit to escort the evacuees to the airport. Instead, the joint unit went from the airport to the safe house, possibly because they were under the impression they were dealing with a hostage situation, he said. The militant attack coincided with the joint team's arrival at the safe house, he said.

That the attackers knew the safe house's location suggests a "spy" inside the security forces tipped off the militants, he said.

U.S. officials have not confirmed the account. They have spoken of an attack on the consulate's annex that killed two Americans, but said their report on the incident was still preliminary.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
I'm sure we'll pull up our big boy pants, make an outraged speech or two while on the campaign trail raising mo' money and perhaps send in a drone or two.
on September 13,2012 | 10:56AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
Does this mean that Obama and Clinton can stop groveling and apologizing for that stupid Youtube movie?
on September 13,2012 | 10:58AM
NITRO08 wrote:
What a stupid thing to say.
on September 13,2012 | 11:52AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
Stupid? It looks like the movie was NOT the cause at all. It was a preplanned attack scheduled for 9/11. While the Obama administration trips over themselves to placate Islamic fanatics, blame the filmmaker and throw his constitutional rights under the bus, our enemies are planning their next attack. Stupid is knot knowing the facts. Clinton says the film is "disgusting and reprehensible." She calls it a cynical attempt to offend people for their religious beliefs. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Justice Department officials had opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats killed during an attack on the American mission in Benghazi. It was not immediately clear whether authorities were focusing on the California filmmaker as part of that probe.A top White House official has blasted as "truly abhorrent" the anti-Islam film that appears to have triggered an outpouring of violence against U.S. diplomatic posts in Egypt and Libya.
on September 13,2012 | 12:52PM
ballen0607 wrote:
yeah....still a stupid thing to say.....:-)
on September 13,2012 | 12:57PM
NITRO08 wrote:
Yes still stupid!
on September 14,2012 | 06:36AM
Hullstown wrote:
Another Obama promise "fulfilled", "US is now stronger, safer and more respected in the world".
on September 13,2012 | 11:31AM
Grimbold wrote:
WARSHIPS NOW senselessly CRUISING IN FRONT OF Libya , but too stupid to have 2 armed guards with machine guns to protect the ambassador! That's the present USA under Obama.
on September 13,2012 | 11:33AM
NITRO08 wrote:
on September 13,2012 | 11:55AM
scooters wrote:
Local civilian guards, who didn't do their job. Should have been US Marines there with orders to use what ever force is necessary to repel any attack.
on September 13,2012 | 12:09PM
false wrote:
They were out "gunned" when armored vehicles and extreme "gun power" demonstrated a powerful onslaught that was not survivable. 9/11 is always going to be a trigger event around the world for extremists because it is a wound that will never heal. We will always have that scar to demonstrate our vulnerability. Internet filters are in place to capture inflaming material that serves humanity no purpose. Use it. Since the movie raises an alarm the producer should bare some consequences in this response. He created an international disaster that fueled a 9/11 event.
on September 14,2012 | 05:50AM
NITRO08 wrote:
So you are saying we had Marines inplace in the Bush era. Idon't think so!
on September 14,2012 | 06:40AM
dalawyer wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on September 13,2012 | 11:47AM
NITRO08 wrote:
Mitt jr!
on September 13,2012 | 11:51AM
scooters wrote:
Yes in deed..Start a new parking lot..
on September 13,2012 | 12:10PM
ballen0607 wrote:
what's with all this hate talk?! do we not remember a certain nation who did something like this and felt the same way?? 6 million are rolling in their grave right now....COME ON!
on September 13,2012 | 01:00PM
kahuku01 wrote:
Should have, could have, are suggestions by many who weren't there to witness the attack and don't fully understand what took place except for what they have read. Instead of providing support to our leaders and government they always see only the negative part of the incident and quickly put blame on our leaders. This is why our country leaders and people are divided in working together towards a common goal. There's too much bickering going on and not enough support for our leaders especially when the other party leaders do not show respect for the office of the president. It sure doesn't look American from the other countries perspective. It shouldn't mater if the president is a Republican or Democrat and as a nation, we must stand together and support and respect the office of the President of the United States of America.
on September 13,2012 | 01:13PM
Hullstown wrote:
"the negative part of the incident"? Like the murder of U.S. citizens including Ambassador Stevens? Well, I suppose that *is* the "incident" isn't it? If not what would the story here? The fact that our citizens were murdered somehow prompts a person to write a thinly veiled post about respecting the "office of the President of the United States of America" is illustrative; it's all about Obama.
on September 13,2012 | 01:57PM
312guy wrote:
just like you have the freedom of speech and write your opinion, the film maker provided the cover of the terrorist and the element of surprise. A good man and his staff died and all you can say is to put the blame on our president. My condolence to the families. Hullstown peace be with you. A proud Marine who supports President Obama
on September 13,2012 | 05:44PM
Hullstown wrote:
312guy, Wa-Alaikum-Salaam. The film maker did not provide "cover" for anything/anyone. The film maker made a film. Fundamentalists attacked Americans under the guise that some film had anything to do with it, other than a matter of convenience - which this AP story clearly illustrates. I've not blamed Obama any more than I blame a film maker. I have simply pointed out that kahuku01's barely cogent post is rooted in the *incredibly* *original* notion of (GASP) respecting President Obama. What does respecting President Obama have to do with "a good man and his staff" dying? Nothing. A proud American citizen who puts the interest of the United States *before* any individual man - including the president.
on September 13,2012 | 06:29PM
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