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Entries in U.S. Consulate (8)

Monday
Oct082012

Ambassador Stevens Wanted Security Team to Stay in Libya

STR/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens wanted a Security Support Team, made up of 16 special operations soldiers, to stay with him in Libya after their deployment was scheduled to end in August, the commander of that security team told ABC News.

The embassy staff’s “first choice was for us to stay,” Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, 55, told ABC News in an interview.  “That would have been the choice of the embassy people in Tripoli.”

But a senior State Department official told ABC News that the embassy’s Regional Security Officer never specifically requested that the SST’s tour be extended past August, and the official maintained there was no net loss of security personnel.  

The Regional Security Officer “asked for a number of U.S. shooters because of the pending SST redeployment and he was at that number,” said the senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing internal investigation.

The State Department issued a statement Monday, saying, “The SST was enlisted to support the re-opening of Embassy Tripoli, to help ensure we had the security necessary as our diplomatic presence grew.  They were based in Tripoli and operated almost exclusively there.  When their rotation in Libya ended, Diplomatic Security Special Agents were deployed and maintained a constant level of security capability.  So their departure had no impact whatsoever on the total number of fully trained American security personnel in Libya generally, or in Benghazi specifically.”

The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli had already asked for -- and received -- an extension of the SST earlier in the year.  A February draft request for a 120-day extension, obtained by ABC News, stated that the team is “an integral part of our mobile and fixed site security functions,” augmenting the security escort work done by the Mobile Security Detachment, protecting the embassy, training local guards, serving as a Quick Reaction Force, providing “vital medical, communications, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), as well as, command and control enablers that are critical to post’s security effort.”

The embassy request stated: “Quite simply, we cannot maintain our existing levels of Embassy operations, much less implement necessary staffing increases, without a continued SST presence.”

Wood, a member of the Utah National Guard who ordinarily works in security for the Department of the Interior, is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee hearings on Wednesday.

Asked for comment to the memo and Wood’s comments, a spokesman for the House Oversight Committee told ABC News: “Diplomats working in Libya viewed security provided by highly trained Americans as critical to their safety and mission.  The Oversight Committee’s investigation continues to seek answers about why -- even as threats against Americans increased -- senior State Department officials erroneously decided such security was no longer needed.”

Investigators are exploring whether anyone at the State Department told the Embassy specifically not to request another extension.

In his interview with ABC News, Wood did not argue that his and the Security Support Team’s presence would have made a difference for Ambassador Stevens and the other three Americans killed at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

“That’s way speculative; I don’t even know the facts of what happened” that night, Wood said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct042012

FBI Investigators Visit US Consulate Attack Site in Benghazi

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. official confirms that an FBI team, under the protection of a U.S. military unit, visited Benghazi for the first time since the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
 
At a briefing Thursday, Pentagon spokesperson George Little confirmed that the U.S. military's special operations forces transported the team into Benghazi Thursday to visit the damaged U.S. consulate.  Though Little was reluctant to provide specifics, saying he didn’t want to tip off “the wrong people" about the mission, he did say the military unit provided logistical and security support.  He later added that the U.S. military had provided an “airlift” for the visit that that lasted “a number of hours.”

The FBI team surveyed the damage at the consulate building and gathered evidence, Libyan security officials said, according to Voice of America.  Libyan military vehicles sealed off the road leading to the consulate compound to allow for the visit, which had to be approved by the Libyan government.

Asked why it took so long for investigators to visit the attack site, Little said that too much shouldn’t be read into any time delays because the U.S. has been actively investigating the events surrounding the attack.   

"We have not been sitting around waiting, you know, for information to come to us," he said about the investigation.

Little said investigators have been "actively chasing leads in various ways."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep272012

Administration Now Linking Al Qaeda Faction to Consulate Attack in Libya

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The White House now accepts the likelihood that Islamic militant forces were behind the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, two weeks ago.

During a special United Nations meeting in New York City Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that an al Qaeda offshoot from North Africa could be tied to the attack.

It's the first tactic admission from the Obama administration that a terrorist group, in this case, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was behind the assault, which the White House initially blamed on a demonstration against an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. that had turned violent.

Republicans have heaped criticism on the administration for failing to see an al Qaeda connection from the onset, alleging that the president was worried that it would hurt him in the polls.

At the U.N., Clinton said "terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.  And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi."

The secretary of state reiterated that the U.S. intelligence and other agencies are working with the Libyan government and other agencies to learn more about the consulate attack in Benghazi.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Arrest Made in Attack on US Consulate in Libya

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(BENGHAZI, Libya) -- There were a number of developments in Libya Thursday as the search for the killers of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans continued.

Libya's prime minister told Christiane Amanpour, Global Affairs Anchor of ABC News, that at least one arrest has been made in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi last Tuesday that officials believe had been planned for weeks.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI has already opened an investigation into the attacks and will be interviewing survivors in Libya.

More is being learned about the siege, which was described as nearly a five-hour gun battle.  Additional security eventually regained some control while employees escaped the consulate.  It was also nearly 12 hours before Ambassador Stevens' body was returned by local Libyans who had carried him to a hospital in an effort to save him.

In addition to Stevens, Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer, died in the attack.

On Thursday, the names of the other two Americans were revealed: former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

US Warships Deployed to Libyan Coast in Wake of Consulate Attack

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho/Released(NEW YORK) -- With U.S. missions in potential hot spots on high alert after the attacks on the embassies in Cairo and Benghazi, Libya, President Obama ordered the deployment Wednesday of two destroyers to the region.

The USS Laboon is already off the coast of Libya while the USS McFaul should arrive in the next few days.

Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens became the first American envoy killed in the past 33 years along with three other countrymen after terrorists stormed the poorly-fortified consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday.

While the war ships don't have a specific assignment, they're expected to be at the beck and call of the U.S. if needed to protect national interests in Libya and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, an elite squad of 50 Marines is also headed to Tripoli, Libya, to secure American facilities.

There are also reports that the U.S. might fly unmanned drones over eastern Libya to search for jihadist camps where the consulate attackers might be hiding out.  These aircraft were used in 2011 when a no-fly zone was established over Libya during the revolt against then-dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

Libya Consulate Was Hit with Two Attacks That Lasted Nearly Five Hours

STR/AFP/Getty Images(BENGHAZI, Libya) -- The assault on the American consulate in Libya Tuesday consisted of two separate attacks that forced the Americans from the consulate and then besieged them in a second building in a gunbattle that lasted four and half hours, according to a detailed timeline from a senior administration official.

The bloody offensive by extremists killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.  In addition, three more U.S. personnel were wounded.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Libyan militants a "small and savage group," and she praised Stevens, who began working in Libya during the revolt against former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"He risked his life to stop a tyrant and gave his life trying to build a better Libya," she said.

The gunfire erupted around 10 p.m. Tuesday while 25-30 personnel were in the compound, which consisted of several buildings and was guarded by a Libyan security force.  Libyan Deputy Interior Minister of the Eastern Region Wanis al-Sharif told a news conference on Wednesday that about 20 gun-wielding attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

By 10:15 p.m., the attackers had stormed the grounds and begun firing on the main building.  The U.S. official said that Stevens, 52; Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer; and a regional security officer were in the main building, which by then had been set ablaze.

By 10:45 p.m., the trio had become separated by thick smoke as they tried to get out of the building.  The regional security officer made it out of the building and U.S. security personnel tried to rescue Stevens and Smith.  Smith, however, had died of smoke inhalation.  His body was pulled from the building.

The searchers were unable to find Stevens before heavy gunfire forced them to retreat to a mission annex building, which was a distance away from the main building.

It took two attempts before American security officials were able to regain control of the consulate at 11:20 p.m., and they evacuated the staff from all of the buildings to the annex.

However, by midnight, the U.S. official said on Wednesday, a second assault began as the annex started taking fire.  Libya's al-Sharif said on Wednesday that a separate group was involved in that firefight.  It lasted for more than two hours.  Two more personnel were killed in that battle and two were wounded.

By 2:30 a.m., nearly five hours after the assault had begun, Libyan security forces helped to regain control of the site.

The State Department said that some time between 10:15 p.m. and 11:20 p.m., Stevens left the main building and went to the hospital.  Clinton said he was taken there by Libyans.

Stevens was not seen by his colleagues until his body was brought later that evening to the Benghazi airport, where all U.S. personnel were taken for a flight to Tripoli.

The U.S. official said that all U.S. staff had now been sent to Europe and the wounded are being treated in Germany.

The two other Americans also died during the incident but had not yet been publicly identified, officials said.  U.S. officials are still making next of kin notifications.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep122012

US Ambassador to Libya Killed in Consulate Attack in Benghazi

MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images(BENGHAZI, Libya) -- Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died on Tuesday when Libyan militants stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Stevens, 52, was killed as 20 gun-wielding attackers stormed the U.S. consulate, angry about an American-made film that depicts Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and womanizer. The attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate, Libya's Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said at a news conference in Benghazi.

Nearly a dozen Americans were inside the consulate at the time, guarded only by Libyan security. For nearly 20 minutes, the Libyan guards exchanged fire with the attackers, who hurled a firebomb inside.

Stevens was killed by injuries he sustained during the attack, according to a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday, which also identified Foreign Service Information Management Officer and Air Force veteran Sean Smith as among those killed during the attack. Two more Americans were killed although their identities have not been released pending notification of their families.

"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," President Obama said in a statement Wednesday. "Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."

"I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants," the statement continued.

Stevens, who was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served two tours of duty in Libya, was nominated by President Obama to be the ambassador to Libya early this year.  His term of appointment began on May 22, and he was in Libya during the revolution, serving as the Amercan representavie to the transitional national council.

The U.S. is now evacuating all Americans working with the State Department from Benghazi.  The U.S. is also bracing for more attacks in the Middle East, and considers this an extremely dangerous situation in the region right now.

Anger over the movie that some believe insulted the Prophet Mohammad also provoked protests in Cairo Tuesday, where demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy, took down the American flag and replaced it with a black flag.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News the State Department is on alert throughout the region and fear there could be more attacks to come.

The group that attacked the consulate is called Ansar al Sharia, according to Libyan sources.  The group has claimed responsibility for the attack but did not mention the movie as motivation.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement released Tuesday night.  "As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed.  We are heartbroken by this terrible loss.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack."

Libyan President Mohammed Yussef Magariaf promised to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in the country, condemned the assault on the embassy and pledged his government's full cooperation, Clinton said.

According to The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal and Egyptian media, the movie is called Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims and has been promoted by Terry Jones, the controversial Florida preacher whose Koran burning in March 2010 led to the deadly violence in Afghanistan.

Jones said Tuesday in a statement that the movie was actually titled Innocence of Muslims and was intended not to attack Muslims, but to show the "destructive ideology of Islam."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May202011

US Consulate Vehicles Attacked in Pakistan

USGS [dot] gov(PESHAWAR, Pakistan) -- A two-vehicle convoy of the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan was attacked Friday morning as the American officials were heading to work, according to U.S. embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez.

All of the officials survived the blast and are said to be safe.  One passerby, however, was killed when the vehicles were hit.

The explosion damaged one of the two consulate vehicles and destroyed the wall of a nearby house.

The cause of the blast stemmed from a bomb in a Suzuki van packed with about 120 pounds of explosives.  The U.S. embassy said it's investigating whether a motorcycle was also part of the attack.

It is not yet known who is responsible for the incident.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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