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In 2012, two US facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were attacked by Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamic militant group. On the evening of September 11, the US diplomatic compound was targeted, leading to the deaths of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Officer Sean Smith. Early the next morning, a separate attack on a nearby CIA annex resulted in the deaths of CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty, with ten others injured. Originally thought to have evolved from spontaneous protests, later investigations revealed the attacks were pre-planned, though some unrelated individuals might have joined as the events unfolded. No conclusive ties were found between the attacks and global terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.
The Benghazi incident involved two distinct assaults on US compounds. The initial attack took place around 9:40 p.m. local time at the primary diplomatic compound, covering an area of roughly 300 by 100 yards. Hours later, at about 4:00 a.m., a second offensive targeted a CIA annex 1.2 miles from the first location, marked by 11 minutes of mortar fire.
Shortly after midnight, the CIA annex in Benghazi faced an aggressive attack, characterized by machine gun, rocket, and mortar fire. Despite the intense onslaught, the CIA defenders managed to repel the assault until daylight.
By dawn, Libyan government forces joined with reinforcements from Tripoli, which included Glen Doherty and others from a group that had managed to arrive in Benghazi after negotiating their way through Tripoli’s airport. This team, comprising two active-duty JSOC members and five CIA agents, had secured a jet in Tripoli, persuading pilots with a $30,000 incentive.
After some delays at the airport, the combined force reached the CIA annex around 5:00 a.m. Their goal was to escort the Americans there to the airport for evacuation. But soon after their arrival, the annex again faced intense fire. During a brief pause in combat, Doherty sought out his friend, Tyrone S. Woods, finding him on the roof with two other agents. Tragically, a mortar strike killed Woods, and as Doherty tried to reposition, another mortar took his life. Both David Ubben, a Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent, and CIA contractor Mark Geist were injured during this attack, suffering from shrapnel injuries and broken bones.
While some agents moved to the roof to aid the injured, another JSOC operator monitored live images from a Predator drone sent by the DOD’s US Africa Command. Given the situation, all defenders resolved to evacuate to the airport. During their escape, they faced more armed resistance. The evacuees, numbering around 30 and including six State Department members and the remains of Sean Smith, unfortunately, could not find Ambassador Stevens during their exit.