So they make a decision that they’re going to have to leave the safe haven. They decide that they’re going to go out through an adjacent bedroom which has one of the window grills that will open. The agent leads the two others into a hallway in that bedroom. He opens the grill. He’s going first because that is standard procedure. There is firing going on outside. I should have mentioned that during all of this, all of these events that I’ve been describing, there is considerable firing going on outside. There are tracer bullets. There is smoke. There is – there are explosions. I can’t tell you that they were RPGs, but I think they were RPGs. So there’s a lot of action going on, and there’s dozens of armed men on the – there are dozens of armed men on the compound.
Okay. We’ve got the agent. He’s opening the – he is suffering severely from smoke inhalation at this point. He can barely breathe. He can barely see. He’s got the grill open and he flops out of the window onto a little patio that’s been enclosed by sandbags. He determines that he’s under fire, but he also looks back and sees he doesn’t have his two companions. He goes back in to get them. He can’t find them. He goes in and out several times before smoke overcomes him completely, and he has to stagger up a small ladder to the roof of the building and collapse. He collapses.
At that point, he radios the other agents. Again, the other agents are barricaded in Building C and – Building B, and the TOC. He radios the other agents that he’s got a problem. He is very difficult to understand. He can barely speak.
The other agents, at this time, can see that there is some smoke, or at least the agents in the TOC – this is the first they become aware that Building C is on fire. They don’t have direct line of sight. They’re seeing smoke and now they’ve heard from the agent. So they make a determination to go to Building C to try to find their colleagues.
The agent in the TOC, who is in full gear, opens the door, throws a smoke grenade, which lands between the two buildings, to obscure what he is doing, and he moves to Building B, enters Building B. He un-barricades the two agents that are in there, and the three of them emerge and head for Building C. There are, however, plenty of bad guys and plenty of firing still on the compound, and they decide that the safest way for them to move is to go into an armored vehicle, which is parked right there. They get into the armored vehicle and they drive to Building C.
They drive to the part of the building where the agent had emerged. He’s on the roof. They make contact with the agent. Two of them set up as best a perimeter as they can, and the third one, third agent, goes into the building. This goes on for many minutes. Goes into the building, into the choking smoke. When that agent can’t proceed, another agent goes in, and so on. And they take turns going into the building on their hands and knees, feeling their way through the building to try to find their two colleagues. They find Sean. They pull him out of the building. He is deceased. They are unable to find the Ambassador.
At this point, the special security team, the quick reaction security team from the other compound, arrive on this compound. They came from what we call the annex. With them – there are six of them – with them are about 16 members of the Libyan February 17th Brigade, the same militia that was – whose – some members of which were on our compound to begin with in the barracks.
As those guys attempt to secure a perimeter around Building C, they also move to the TOC, where one agent has been manning the phone. I neglected to mention from the top that that agent from the top of this incident, or the very beginning of this incident, has been on the phone. He had called the quick reaction security team, he had called the Libyan authorities, he had called the Embassy in Tripoli, and he had called Washington. He had them all going to ask for help. And he remained in the TOC.
So at this point in the evening, the members of the quick reaction team, some parts of it, go to the TOC with the Libyan 17th Brigade – 17th February Brigade. They get him out of the TOC. He moves with them to join their colleagues outside of Building C. All the agents at this point are suffering from smoke inhalation. The agent that had been 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, freshest set of lungs, goes into the building himself, though he is advised not to. He goes into the building himself, as do some members of the quick reaction security team.
The agent makes a couple of attempts, cannot proceed. He’s back outside of the building. He takes his shirt off. There’s a swimming pool nearby. He dips his shirt in the swimming pool and wraps it around his head, goes in one last time. Still can’t find the Ambassador. Nobody is able to find the Ambassador.
At this point, the quick reaction security team and the Libyans, especially the Libyan forces, are saying, “We cannot stay here. It’s time to leave. We’ve got to leave. We can’t hold the perimeter.” So at that point, they make the decision to evacuate the compound and to head for the annex. The annex is about two kilometers away. My agents pile into an armored vehicle with the body of Sean, and they exit the main gate.
Here it’s a little harder to understand because I don’t have a diagram that you can show – that I can show you. But in a nutshell, they take fire almost as soon as they emerge from the compound. They go a couple of – they go in one direction toward the annex. They don’t like what they’re seeing ahead of them. There are crowds. There are groups of men. They turn around and go the other direction. They don’t like what they’re seeing in that direction either. They make another u-turn. They’re going at a steady pace. There is traffic in the roads around there. This is in Benghazi, after all. Now, they’re going at a steady pace and they’re trying not to attract too much attention, so they’re going maybe 15 miles an hour down the street.
They come up to a knot of men in an adjacent compound, and one of the men signals them to turn into that compound. They agents at that point smell a rat, and they step on it. They have taken some fire already. At this point, they take very heavy fire as they go by this group of men. They take direct fire from AK-47s from about two feet away. The men also throw hand grenades or gelignite bombs under – at the vehicle and under it. At this point, the armored vehicle is extremely heavily impacted, but it’s still holding. There are two flat tires, but they’re still rolling. And they continue far down the block toward the crowds and far down several blocks to the crowd – to another crowd where this road t-bones into a main road. There is a crowd there. They pass through the crowd and on – turn right onto this main road. This main road is completely choked with traffic, enormous traffic jam typical for, I think, that time of night in that part of town. There are shops along the road there and so on.
Rather than get stuck in the traffic, the agents careen their car over the median – there is a median, a grassy median – and into the opposing traffic, and they go counter-flow until they emerge into a more lightly trafficked area and ultimately make their way to the annex.
Once at the annex, the annex has its own security – a security force there. There are people at the annex. The guys in the car join the defense at the annex. They take up firing positions on the roof – some of them do – and other firing positions around the annex. The annex is, at this time, also taking fire and does take fire intermittently, on and off, for the next several hours. The fire consists of AK-47s but also RPGs, and it’s, at times, quite intense.
As the night goes on, a team of reinforcements from Embassy Tripoli arrives by chartered aircraft at Benghazi airport and makes its way to the compound – to the annex, I should say. And I should have mentioned that the quick reaction – the quick reaction security team that was at the compound has also, in addition to my five agents, has also returned to the annex safely. The reinforcements from Tripoli are at the compound – at the annex. They take up their positions. And somewhere around 5:45 in the morning – sorry, somewhere around 4 o'clock in the morning – I have my timeline wrong – somewhere around 4 o'clock in the morning the annex takes mortar fire. It is precise and some of the mortar fire lands on the roof of the annex. It immediately killed two security personnel that are there, severely wounds one of the agents that’s come from the compound.
At that point, a decision is made at the annex that they are going to have to evacuate the whole enterprise. And the next hours are spent, one, securing the annex, and then two, moving in a significant and large convoy of vehicles everybody to the airport, where they are evacuated on two flights.
So that’s the end of my tick-tock.