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.
Senior administration officials, in a briefing late Wednesday, could not answer those two questions. But they sought to explain how the attackers mounted such a deadly assault on the compound, and in doing so acknowledged that U.S. personnel effectively lost track of Stevens after the initial attack.