Meanwhile, Stevens' building rapidly fills up with thick diesel smoke and burning fumes from the furniture. Inside, visibility is less than 3 feet. Unable to breathe, the Americans go to a bathroom and open a window but still can't get enough air. They decide to leave the building. The agent goes first, flopping out onto a patio enclosed by sandbags. He takes immediate fire, including probably rocket-propelled grenades. Stevens and Smith don't come out of the building. The agent, suffering severely from smoke inhalation, goes in and out of the building several times to look for them. He then climbs a ladder to the roof of the building and collapses. He radios the other agents to alert them to the situation there.
The other four agents are able to reunite and take an armored vehicle to Stevens' building. They reach the collapsed agent and try to set up a perimeter. They take turns going into the building, searching on hands and knees for the missing Americans. Smith is pulled out, dead. Stevens cannot be found.
A six-person, quick-reaction security team arrives from their compound across town. About 60 Libyan militiamen accompany them. They attempt to secure a perimeter around Stevens' building and take turns going inside. Taking fire, Libyan forces determine they can't hold the perimeter. A decision is made to evacuate the compound and return with everyone to the reaction force's compound.
Agents pile into an armored vehicle with Smith's body and leave through the main gate. They face immediate fire. Crowds and groups of men block two different routes to the security compound. Heavy traffic means they are traveling only about 15 mph and trying not to attract attention. On a narrow street they reach a group of men who signal for them to enter a compound. They sense an attack and speed away, taking heavy fire from AK-47 machine guns at a distance of only 2 feet and hand grenades thrown against and under the car. Two tires are blown out.
They speed past another crowd of men and onto a main street and across a grassy median into opposing traffic. The agents drive against traffic, eventually reaching their compound. Security gets into firing positions around the compound and on the roof. They take more gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades intermittently for several hours.
In the night, a team of reinforcements from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli arrives on a chartered aircraft at the Benghazi airport and reaches the security compound.
Around 4 a.m.
The compound's building is hit by mortar fire. The roof is hit and two security personnel are killed. One agent involved in the attack from the beginning is severely wounded. The men decide to evacuate the city entirely. They spend the next hours securing the annex and moving a large convoy of vehicles to the airport. They evacuate on two flights.
The president, in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, uses the word "terror." He says: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."
Romney accuses the administration of showing weakness in the face of the attack, prompting the president to say his rival "seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later."
The CIA station chief in Libya reports to Washington within 24 hours of the attack that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about the anti-Islam video.
Sept. 16. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice goes on television to say the attack was the work of individual clusters of extremists but began as a spontaneous protest. She says evidence gathered to that point showed no indication of a premeditated or coordinated strike.
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