U.S. Embassy Attacks & Scares

Title: Al Qaeda Responsible For 4 Attacks On U.S. Embassies In September
October 3, 2012
Weekly Standard

Abstract: On and around September 11, 2012, al Qaeda attacked multiple American assets around the world. The attack that has received the most attention is the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. But the U.S. consulate in Libya was not the only diplomatic facility assaulted by al Qaeda-affiliated groups in September. Terrorists with ties to al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, were involved in at least three other U.S. embassy sieges in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and possibly elsewhere. 

A timeline of these assaults is presented below.

Egypt (September 11)
Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, admitted to helping organize the protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Mohammed al Zawahiri is a longtime Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative who was jailed in Egypt until earlier this year. The EIJ is a core part of al Qaeda’s joint venture. Both the EIJ and Gamaa Islamiya (IG), another close ally of al Qaeda, planned to protestoutside of the U.S. embassy in Cairo before the anti-Islam film became known.

The day before the embassy protest in Cairo, on September 10, al Qaeda released a video of Ayman al Zawahiri, who called on jihadists to exact revenge for the death of Abu Yahya al Libi. A drone strike killed Abu Yahya in June, making the al Qaeda chieftain’s delayed eulogy curious.

Ayman al Zawahiri used the video to argue that al Qaeda has not been defeated because senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in northern Pakistan and elsewhere. Instead, Ayman al Zawahiri said, al Qaeda’s “message has spread amongst our Muslim Ummah, which received it with acceptance and responded to it.”

The video then cuts to a clip of Mohammed al Zawahiri, who has made similar arguments in his post-detention interviews. During an interview with CNN earlier this year, the younger Zawahiri said that al Qaeda’s strength is “not in its leaders but in its ideology.”

Demonstrators at U.S. embassy protest in Cairo chanted, “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama!”

One can speculate that embassy protests and riots were intended to demonstrate the Zawahiris’ point.

Libya (September 11)
Multiple al Qaeda-affiliated groups have been linked to the complex assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. These groups include al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Ansar al Sharia militia, which is headed by an ex-Guantanamo detainee and known al Qaeda operative named Sufyan Ben Qumu. Members of the Ansar al Sharia militia were in contact with AQIMin the hours after the attack, Eli Lake reported at The Daily Beast.

Other al Qaeda personalities have been linked the terrorist assault as well. One of them, according to the Wall Street Journal, is Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) who was released from prison last year. Some sources have identified Ahmad as a senior EIJ leader prior to his imprisonment.

The Journal reports that Ahmad “has petitioned” Ayman al Zawahiri, “to whom he has long ties, for permission to launch an al Qaeda affiliate and has secured financing from al Qaeda's Yemeni wing.”  Ahmad “is building his own terror group, say Western officials, who call it the Jamal Network.” And “[f]ighters linked” to Ahmad are thought to have taken part in the attack on the consulate.

The Journal added another intriguing detail: “U.S. officials believe [Mohammed al Zawahiri] has helped Mr. Ahmad connect with the al Qaeda chief.” EIJ members are suspected of funneling Egyptian militants to training camps in Libya as well.

The attack in Benghazi came the month after a congressional report warned about al Qaeda’s growing presence in Libya. Ayman al Zawahiri has dispatched senior al Qaeda members to Libya to build a clandestine network that, according to the report’s authors, is on the verge of becoming a fully operational network.

Yemen (September 13)
The U.S. embassy in Sanaa was stormed after Sheikh Abdul Majeed al Zindani called for protests, according to the New York Times. Zindani is a known al Qaeda supporter.

In 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department added Zindani to its list of designated terrorist supporters, calling him an Osama bin Laden “loyalist.” Zindani “has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders,” Treasury explained. Zindani “has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al Qaeda training camps” and “played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al Qaeda and other terrorists.”

Zindani oversees a network of radical schools, including Al Iman University in Sanaa. Al Iman’s graduates have included terrorists and extremists, including John Walker Lindh (the “American Taliban”) and al Qaeda operatives.

Zindani’s son, Mohamed, has previously called for attacks against the U.S. embassy in Sanaa. In March, according to published accounts, Mohamed al Zindani “called on his fellow Yemenis to raise the flag of Islam and wage war on the American infidels, starting with US ambassador to Yemen, Gerard Feierstein.”

In May, according to UPI, Mohamed al Zindani urged his “followers to rally to Ansar al Sharia, an offshoot of al-Qaida in the southern province of Abyan.” Ansar al Sharia in Yemen is, in fact, the sister organization of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  Both are headed by Nasir al Wuhayshi, bin Laden’s former aide de camp in Afghanistan.

Tunisia (September 14)
The assault on the U.S. embassy in Tunis was orchestrated by a notorious al Qaeda terrorist named Seifallah ben Hassine, aka Abu Iyad al Tunisi. The embassy staff had already been evacuated, but Hassine’s mob ransacked American property, including cars and a school.

Hassine is the leader of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia. The Ansar al Sharia brand, as explained above, is being used by al Qaeda-linked groups in Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere.

Hassine was released from a Tunisian prison in 2011, after being convicted in 2003 of belonging to an al Qaeda-affiliated group. In 2000, Hassine co-founded the Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG). According to the United Nations, the TCG was created “in coordination with” al Qaeda.

Hassine reportedly met with both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two days prior to the attacks, on September 9, 2001, two Tunisian assassins killed Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. The assassins were supplied with forged passports by another senior TCG member. The hit on Massoud was an integral part of al Qaeda’s 9/11 plot as it removed a key American ally, and an enemy of the Taliban and al Qaeda, from the battlefield before the fight for Afghanistan even began.

Al Qaeda’s and Hassine’s TCG plotted terrorist attacks in Europe in early 2001. One of the plots targeted the U.S. embassy in Rome. In April 2001, Italian authorities arrested a dual TCG-al Qaeda operative in Italy who oversaw the plot. The plot was so serious, according to the State Department’sPatterns of Global Terrorism report for 2001, that the U.S. Embassies in Rome and the Vatican City, as well as the U.S. consulates in Naples and Milan, were closed to the public. It was the first time the embassy in Rome was closed since the Gulf War a decade earlier.

Thus, Hassine and his operatives have long targeted U.S. diplomatic facilities.

Other Al Qaeda-linked Embassy Riots & Protests
In some countries reporting on events remains sketchy. In Sudan, for example, local press reports indicate that Salafi-jihadist groups with an affinity for al Qaeda were responsible for assaulting Western embassies. The U.S., German, and UK embassies all came under attack in Khartoum. Al Qaeda has a longstanding presence in Sudan, which was home to Osama bin Laden and his operatives during the early 1990s.

Elsewhere, al Qaeda-linked personalities led demonstrations near U.S. diplomatic facilities. On September 16, in Lahore, Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chieftain Hafiz Muhammad Saeed led a protest. “At least 8,000 people” attended, according to the Associated Press. The New York Timesadds that the protest took place just half a mile from U.S. Consulate. The protest “remained peaceful,” according to the Times, but Saeed called for the creators of Innocence of Muslims to “be hanged to set an example.”

In April, the U.S. government offered a $10 million bounty for Saeed, making him one of the most wanted terrorists on the planet. Saeed has been implicated in LeT’s November 2008 siege of Mumbai, but there was likely more to the bounty. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound reportedly show that Saeed remained in contact with bin Laden until shortly before the al Qaeda master’s death in May 2011. The documents also purportedly show that bin Laden received surveillance reports used to plan the attacks in Mumbai, suggesting deep collusion between the LeT and al Qaeda. Saeed was bin Laden’s ally dating to the 1980s.

Saeed has sought to inflame tensions further since the protest in Lahore. “Obama has said he cannot block the film,” Saeed said during an interview with Reuters. “What does that say?”

“Obama's statements have caused a religious war,” Saeed added. “This is a very sensitive issue. This is not going to be resolved soon. Obama's statement has started a cultural war.”

From the perspective of al Qaeda and affiliated groups, Saeed’s comments are likely what this was all about. They want to show that al Qaeda’s ideology has not been defeated, that the terror network still has street muscle, and that they can kill American diplomats (Weekly Standard, 2012).

Title: Indonesia Reports Suspects Planned Attack On US Embassy
October 27, 2012
Fox News

Indonesia's anti-terror squad arrested 11 people suspected of planning a range of attacks on domestic and foreign targets including the U.S. Embassy and a site near the Australian Embassy, police said Saturday.

The suspects were arrested in raids Friday and Saturday in four provinces, national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Suhardi Alius said.

He said the suspects belonged to a new group called the Harakah Sunni for Indonesian Society, or HASMI.

"From evidence found at the scene, we believe that this group was well prepared for serious terror attacks," Alius said.

Police seized a number of bombs, explosive materials, a bomb-making manual and ammunition, Alius said. They also found a 3-kilogram (6.6-pound) gas cylinder filled with highly explosive material, which had been assembled at a house in the East Java town of Madiun. Videos and images of attacks on Muslims in various parts of the world were also recovered, he said.

Alius said the group planned to target the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and a plaza near the Australian Embassy and the local office of U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoRan. It also planned to attack the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya and the headquarters of a special police force in Central Java, he said.

It was unclear how far the plans had advanced.

Alius said police are still investigating whether the group has ties with established terrorist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyah. An investigator who spoke in condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide information to the media said HASMI's apparent leader, Abu Hanifah, was a Jemaah Islamiyah sympathizer.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, has been battling terrorists since the 2002 bombings in Bali by militants linked to Jemaah Islamiyah which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Subsequent attacks have claimed more than 50 people, mostly Indonesians. The government has arrested more than 700 suspected terrorists and killed dozens more in an attempt to root out militants.

Earlier this month, police warned of a terrorist threat in Bali targeting a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the bombings. The country's security alert was raised to its highest level.

Last month, police arrested 10 Islamist militants and seized a dozen homemade bombs from a group suspected of planning suicide attacks against security forces and plotting to blow up the Parliament building. The alleged bomb maker turned himself in to police while wearing an empty suicide vest.

Recent terror attacks in the country have been carried out by individuals or small groups and have targeted security forces and local "infidels" instead of Westerners, with less deadly results. The arrests announced Saturday appear to be the first in recent years to involve a group that allegedly planned to target foreign facilities (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Was Benghazi Attack On U.S. Consulate An Inside Job?
October 29, 2012
Daily Beast

he sun had risen over a hazy Benghazi about an hour earlier, and as he grabbed the wheel of his militia’s beaten-up white Toyota pickup, 42-year-old Ibn Febrayir (not his real name) groused to himself that this was no way to treat an ambassador, especially U.S. envoy Christopher Stevens. He had heard war tales about the lanky, good-natured Californian. How he had ventured to the shifting front lines during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and during lulls shared the rebels’ impromptu meals, ready to swap jokes and flash a winning smile, even when regime forces were mounting a counter-offensive.

Febrayir was dog-tired. His wife had been calling him incessantly all night and he hadn’t answered. Earlier he’d led an unsuccessful relief effort on the U.S. consulate after Salafist militants had launched an assault on the mission on the night of Sept. 11—but with his detachment being fired on, and the roads around the consulate blocked, he hadn’t been able to reach it in time. Later he had met eight U.S. Marines at Benghazi’s airport and accompanied them with a ragtag force of about 30 fighters to the so-called annex, the CIA compound, where an assortment of Americans—diplomats, guards, and intelligence officers—were waiting impatiently to be evacuated. He had been shot at and, he suspected, betrayed. He was in no mood for any more surprises. He tugged at his closely cropped beard.

As he drove through the gates of the Benghazi Medical Center, he looked in his mirror to check on the two men in the back. He’d ordered them to sit on either side of the ambassador to keep the body on a plastic stretcher from sliding off the short flatbed. “This is no way to treat an ambassador,” he muttered again. And then he drove at high speed toward the airport through a Benghazi that was slowly waking from the nighttime mayhem.

The story of the night America lost its first ambassador since 1979 to violence is like a jigsaw puzzle—the pieces are fitting together slowly and the picture is emerging but is still not complete and might not be for months. In trying to figure out the puzzle, U.S. investigators are not being helped by the lack of reliable information coming from Tripoli. The inquiry that Libyan leaders promised the day after the attack has stalled. Who’s in charge? No one really knows. “That’s a million-dollar question,” admits an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushugar. Accompanied by aides, he turns and asks them who’s now formally heading the probe. Debate ensues and it is hazarded that the attorney general might be in charge.

An adviser to Mohamed al-Magarief, the president of the General National Congress, the country’s parliament, concedes nothing much is happening with the inquiry and acknowledges that American officials in Washington, D.C., are frustrated by the lack of progress. “In some ways and at some level, they are understanding, but it isn’t a good answer to give them. They can see our difficulties—we don’t have the organization or the authority to push the inquiry,” he says. “But they are under pressure themselves—especially with the election days away.”

The election tick-tock unnerves Libyan leaders. They worry that President Barack Obama may do something precipitous, especially if his poll numbers drop. They worry about a drone strike on targets in eastern Libya—that would be a gift to jihadists, they say. Do the Americans have targets? Magarief’s adviser thinks they may—though he doesn’t know whether they would include the masterminds behind the attack on Stevens. “They had surveillance drones monitoring that night. They will have identified some people and traced where they are now.” And, of course, the information on jihadists and militants in Libya being gathered by more than a dozen intelligence agents and contractors in the CIA compound before Sept. 11 is likely also to be useful in the hunt.

When one tries to piece together the story of what happened in Benghazi, discrepancies stand out. For one thing, the timing of events given by officials in Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi don’t quite match. The State Department timeline is at variance with the recollection of Libyans manning the Benghazi combined operations room, a coordinating center between the various revolutionary militias “approved” by the government, located a 10-minute drive from the U.S. consulate. The Libyans have the attack starting between 8:30 and 9 p.m. The Americans place it at about 9:40 p.m. The Libyans have the American security guards fleeing the consulate with the body of Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed that night, in an armored SUV 45 minutes to an hour earlier than the Americans do, at around 10 p.m.

There are other inconsistencies, one especially bewildering. The State Department says a six-man Rapid Reaction Force was dispatched from the CIA compound, 1.2 miles away from the consulate, as the assault on the mission unfolded. Militia commanders in the Benghazi operations room that night—housed in the barracks of the Feb. 17 militia on the Tripoli Road, a former army installation that had a grim Gaddafi-era reputation—say they have no knowledge of such a force being present at the consulate.

Certainly, some of the discrepancies could be explained by the confusion of battle or the faulty recollection of men under extreme stress. Miscommunication between Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi almost certainly plays a part. Militia commanders on the ground had no direct contact with senior U.S. officials in D.C. or with the Marines who had arrived to evacuate their compatriots. In Tripoli, army chiefs were talking with U.S. military officials—Libyan Army Chief of Staff Yussef al-Mangoush was overseas but on the conversation by cellphone—while the Libyan civilian leadership was in contact with senior State Department officials and the White House. With so many cooks in the kitchen, it is hardly surprising there was confusion.

But there are other holes in the story. No one has come up with a definitive explanation of how armed militants managed to gain entry to the consulate’s six-acre compound so easily—which is critical to figuring out whether the Benghazi attack was an inside job.

Early reports suggested the gates might have been blown open. But none of the gates show any evidence of this. The back and side gates bear no damage at all, and the black wrought-iron gate at the front sports only two small-caliber bullet holes. The yellow-painted walls around the front gate bear only four ricochet marks made by heavier weaponry, presumably AK-47s.

So maybe the militants scaled the compound’s walls, instead. The four-building consulate property backs onto Benghazi’s busy Venice Road and fronts onto a quiet residential side street of large villas. On three sides, the compound is surrounded by high, breeze-block walls ranging from eight to nine feet, depending on the level of the ground. The walls are topped off by concertina wire. But the fourth wall is lower, more of a fence, and could easily have been vaulted that night without the four armed Libyan or five American diplomatic security guards noticing until the assailants had moved through the orchards of fruit trees. U.S. State Department briefers say the diplomatic security agent manning the CCTV monitors raised the alarm when he saw armed men already pouring through the compound.

Who were these attackers? In the immediate aftermath of the assault, Libyan leaders produced startlingly conflicting statements. They blamed the “men of the Gaddafi regime” and al Qaeda in quick succession. Then, after eyewitnesses fingered local extremists, they focused on a Benghazi-based Salafist militia called Ansar al-Sharia, which had been founded after the toppling of Gaddafi. The adviser to GNC President al-Magarief, who had initially blamed al Qaeda, now says Ansar al-Sharia is indeed behind the attack. “They look to al Qaeda and have some contact with them,” he says.

Last week, it emerged that the Americans already had leads on Ansar al-Sharia’s involvement a mere two hours after the assault began, culled from what spooks like to call “open sources”—in this case, Twitter and Facebook. An email sent on the night of the attack by the State Department to the White House noted that American diplomats in the Libyan capital reported that the militia had “claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

Days later, Ansar al-Sharia disavowed responsibility for the attack. But some of its leaders had already distanced themselves from the ambassador’s death on the very night of the siege, according to new information obtained by Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Militia sources in Benghazi say that four Ansar al-Sharia leaders, including spokesman Hani Mansouri, arrived at the Benghazi operations room to dissociate themselves from the violence. The Benghazi commanders were reportedly startled and disbelieving of the men’s claims at first, but then grudgingly accepted their persistent disavowals. Still, an ops-room source stresses that the militiamen did not say whether others in their group may have been involved, and later showed no sadness over Stevens’s death.

There are scant signs of any serious investigation into Ansar al-Sharia at the moment—a marked departure from the frenetic interest in the group in the days following the assault. On the heels of the attack, Libyan officials picked up a couple dozen people they said may have had information about the siege. Four remain in custody and all are linked to Ansar al-Sharia. But major figures in the Benghazi Salafist and jihadist firmament have not been questioned—including Ahmed Abu Khattala, the founder of another Salafist militia called Abu Obaida Bin Jarrah, which has some crossover membership with Ansar al-Sharia. The 41-year-old Khattala has publicly admitted that he was at the consulate on the night of Sept. 11—he says it was to rescue some friends trapped inside—but has told American reporters that no Libyan investigators have contacted him yet. And the four Ansar commanders who declared their innocence at the Benghazi operations room at the very least might have had knowledge of who was involved.

In the swirl of rumor and conjecture, hard facts and eyewitness statements from credible participants such as Febrayir are a godsend. Although he has no firsthand, on-the-ground knowledge to impart about the assault on the consulate, he was at the center of the action subsequently and provided a two-hour-long narrative of what he saw and experienced that night. His story highlights the confusion and miscommunication on the ground in the attack’s aftermath, and it underscores the suspicion between the Americans and the Libyans, and among the Libyans themselves.

The lean, tall Febrayir was a leather worker before the uprising and joined the rebellion against Gaddafi right from the start. A serious man with a cautious smile, he—along with about 30 other rebels—was handpicked by the rebel leadership for special-forces training in April 2011, and for 28 days was rushed through a course in the eastern Libyan Green Mountains supervised by four Turkish officers. He believes both assaults—on the consulate and CIA compound—were efficiently planned, although the second attack was more professional and clinical, he says.

“Once we knew the Americans were out of the consulate compound, we ordered a full withdrawal by all Libyan forces from the consulate,” he recalls. News of a battle at the U.S. consulate went around Benghazi like wildfire, attracting curiosity-seekers, looters, and hotheads. “Crowds of civilians were turning up,” Febrayir says. “We became afraid people would be caught in crossfire. The operations room was worried that the problem would get bigger and fighting would escalate.”

He was ordered to the Benghazi airport to pick up a group of about a dozen flying in from Tripoli and to accompany them to the Benghazi Medical Center. He wasn’t informed about their identities and only discovered they were Americans when he arrived at the airport with five white Toyota pickups and 20 men. Two large armored SUVs with darkened windows eventually pulled out from the runway and he was ordered by radio to follow. Behind him were two cars full of men from the Libyan Shield, a militia-based force that reports to Libya’s defense ministry. He noticed two Chevy cars also left the airport with them. He never found out who they were, and they worried him over the next few hours.

Five kilometers down the airport road, the armored SUVs stopped. An American, who spoke fluent Arabic and clearly was Arabic by ethnicity, got out of the car. “The American said, ‘We don’t want to cause suspicion. The armored SUVs will go out ahead and then you guys follow at a distance.’” A heated argument broke out. None of the Libyans were happy and argued they had strict orders to protect the Americans. It was about 3 a.m. and the argument lasted about 15 minutes. “It struck me as bizarre. There we were on the airport road and people screaming at each other.” The few passersby slowed and watched.

The American acquiesced eventually, and the convoy proceeded. “Suddenly the SUVs changed direction and headed the wrong way for the medical center.” Confused and frustrated, Febrayir later got a radio call from his ops room telling him just to follow. Later he learned the Americans were using GPS to navigate to the CIA compound and didn’t want to talk with the Libyans or on the radio about where they were heading to avoid alerting attackers. They too were afraid of informants.

The annex is on the outskirts of Benghazi down a residential road. Close to the consulate it feels far more isolated, with waste and farmland nearby. On the night that Febrayir took Newsweek and The Daily Beast there to reconstruct what happened, he got lost in the dark. “This isn’t the easiest place to find. No wonder the Americans needed GPS,” he said.

When the armored SUVs pulled up, the double-fronted iron and frosted-glass gate swung open instantly and large, armed Americans got out and moved swiftly inside. Five minutes later, a Libyan came out saying, “I have 32 Americans to get out and one body bag.”

“All my vehicles were pickup trucks and I had four people already in them, and then I had three other cars who joined us on the way,” Febrayir says. He suggested they call up a bus, but the Libyan said there was no time; they had to get to the airport quickly. There was no shooting at this stage. Febrayir walked back to his force.

In the dimly-lit street, he told his men the Americans would sit inside the pick-ups and they would all have to climb up on the flatbeds. It was about 4 a.m. As they did so, a small-caliber single shot rang out. Febrayir froze; so did his men. Within seconds there was a whooshing sound of several rocket-propelled grenades being fired. Then a mortar hit the annex roof with startling accuracy, killing former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. The accuracy of the mortar round points to an experienced hand. “But then we have many fighters nowadays who fought in the rebellion and who are experienced with mortars,” Febrayir says.

“Before we even showed up they were there waiting,” Febrayir says. He remains convinced that the security for the rescue was compromised and that attackers were not only eavesdropping on radio chatter but were fed by someone from inside the operations room. He never found out who was exactly in the Chevys. They sped off—as did the two Libyan Shield cars. He never saw them again.

“We only had light weapons, and the attackers had heavy weapons. I was afraid for my men. We were exposed and I shouted out at my men not to fire. We couldn’t see where the attackers were located through the trees,” he says. He ordered a withdrawal while fire was directed at the compound. “We were easy targets. I am not talking about running away, but effecting a tactical withdrawal and then to call up more support.” They pulled back to an adjacent road. Febrayir got out and as he did, he heard a voice calling through the dark and from some dense trees nearby, using his full name, warning him to take his people out completely. Spooked, he ordered his men to pull a few hundred meters further back.

Shooting at the annex went on for a quarter of an hour before it stopped as abruptly as it had started. For the next hour, orders were issued, countermanded, and reissued by the operations room. There were no further attacks on the annex, but no one had any idea whether the assailants had remained. Febrayir told the operations room to stop using the radio. “Anyone who wants to talk to me should phone on my cellphone.”

There was talk that the Americans were about to send in another force, and Febrayir was told to get ready to pull out, but no U.S. force arrived. Instead, a large Libyan force turned up. Febrayir and his men secured a perimeter while the evacuation proceeded, and then his detachment followed as around 50 vehicles navigated their way out.

But Febrayir wasn’t finished. On the way to the airport, he was ordered to head to Benghazi Medical Center to pick up a body. The instructions were sent over the radio, to his fury. Later at about 7:15 a.m. he was told—this time via a cellphone call—that the body was the ambassador’s.

After his men had tied up the morgue supervisor, who had refused to hand over the body, Febrayir, fearful of an attempt to snatch the corpse, ignored instructions about what route to follow to the airport and misinformed his superiors with false updates. His caravan traveled fast, driving straight onto the runaway. Six Americans approached. “They looked totally fatigued. Their faces were blackened,” Febrayir says. “I think they had been in the consulate. One of them clambered onto the back and uncovered Stevens’s face and started to cry.”

Jamie Dettmer is an independent foreign correspondent who has been a staff journalist for The Times of London, The Sunday Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday, and the Irish Sunday Tribune (Daily Beast, 2012).