New photos have been released from the burned-out American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, showing what remains of the damaged buildings in the light of day. The pictures show a compound gutted by fire and scarred by graffiti and looting. There have also been some new details about what exactly happened during the assault.
According to various reports, about 20 armed men stormed the compound with guns and rocket-propelled grenades during the night. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and other employees moved to a second building to seek safety, but their location was discovered (possibly exposed by the Libyan guards who were supposed to protect them), and that building came under attack as well. There were initial reports that the men tried to escape in a car that was then struck by an RPG, but given that Stevens apparently died of asphyxiation and had no other injuries, it's likely that they were still inside the building when they were overcome by smoke.
One "counter-extremism think tank" believes that the attack may have been premeditated--meaning it was a Qaida revenge killing to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary--and not related to the incendiary anti-Muslim movie at all, as was the case in the Cairo protests. CNN reporters say that "U.S. sources" agree with that assessment and that the attackers used the peaceful protest as a "diversion" to reach the embassy, but that the ambassador was not specifically a target.
One other note: Some pictures circulated online on Wednesday morning show Libyans carrying the unconscious body of Stevens after the attack. There was speculation that these Libyans were the protesters who killed him, but President Obama said in his remarks that friendly Libyans carried Stevens to the hospital, where doctors tried to revive him for close to 90 minutes.
All photos by Esam Al-Fetori for Reuters
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