It happened in Benghazi, continued: In the beginning, various people thought and said that there had been a demonstration in Benghazi before the “extremists armed with heavy weapons” arrived at the scene and “hijacked events.”
On September 14, the CIA officially said that’s what it believed. Yesterday, we showed you front-page reporting from the Washington Times which reported a similar chain of events.
To read that report, just click here.
What actually happened that night in Benghazi? We can’t tell you that! But below, you see what the New York Times reported on its front page on Thursday morning, September 13.
The piece was written by David Kirkpatrick reporting from Cairo, with more reporting by Osama Alfitory and Suleiman Ali Zway in Benghazi:
KIRKPATRICK (9/13/12): It is unclear if television images of Islamist protesters may have inspired the attack in Benghazi, which had been a hotbed of opposition to Colonel Qaddafi and remains unruly since the Libyan uprising resulted in his death. But Tuesday night, a group of armed assailants mixed with unarmed demonstrators gathered at the small compound that housed a temporary American diplomatic mission there.Where did people get the idea that there had been a demonstration before the heavily armed extremists arrived? How did the insulting YouTube video come to be part of the story?
The ambassador, Mr. Stevens, was visiting the city Tuesday from the United States Embassy compound in Tripoli to attend the planned opening of an American cultural center, and was staying at the mission. It is not clear if the assailants knew that the ambassador was at the mission.
Interviewed at the scene on Tuesday night, many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video's insults. Some recalled an earlier episode when protesters in Benghazi had burned down the Italian consulate after an Italian minister had worn a T-shirt emblazoned with cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Ten people were reportedly killed in clashes with Colonel Qaddafi's police force.
Libya's deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif, made somewhat contradictory and defensive-sounding statements about the attack.
He acknowledged that he had ordered the withdrawal of security forces from the scene in the early stages of the protest on Wednesday night. He said his initial instinct was to avoid inflaming the situation by risking a confrontation with people angry about the video.
He also said he had underestimated the aggression of the protesters. But he criticized the small number of guards inside the mission for shooting back in self-defense, saying their response probably further provoked the attackers.
The small number of Libyans guarding the facility, estimated at only six, did not hold out long against the attackers, who had substantial firepower, the interior minister and State Department officials said. Defending the facility would have been a ''suicide mission,'' Mr. Sharif said.
Mr. Sharif also faulted the Americans at the mission for failing to heed what he said was the Libyan government's advice to pull its personnel or beef up its security, especially in light of the recent violence in the city and the likelihood that the video would provoke protests.
Last September 13, the New York Times and the Washington Times each reported a pre-existing protest, based on eyewitness accounts. According to the New York Times, “many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video's insults.”
We don’t know what happened ourselves. That was one of the early accounts which seemed to emerge from the street.