Timeline of the deteriorating security condition in Benghazi prior to consulate attack

Originally posted on Oct. 11, 2012. Updated on Dec. 26, 2012.

Timeline of the deteriorating security condition in Benghazi, Libya in the months before the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate on Sept. 11, 2012:

March 18, 2012: Armed robbery at the British School.

March 22, 2012: Militia members opened fire and attempted to enter the U.S. consulate compound as they were searching for a suspect.

April 2, 2012: A U.K. diplomatic vehicle was damaged in local protest. The occupants were not hurt.

April 6, 2012: A gelatina bomb (commonly used for fishing) was thrown over the north wall of the U.S. consulate.

April 10, 2012: An improvised explosive device (IED) was “thrown at the motorcade of the UN Special Envoy to Libya”.

April 26, 2012: A fistfight escalated to a gunfight at the International Medical University. The Principal Officer of the Benghazi consulate was evacuated.

April 27, 2012: Two South Africans working on the U.S.-funded weapons removal and de-mining project were detained by a militia at gunpoint. They were questioned and later released.

May 22, 2012: Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) struck the Red Cross building in Benghazi. The Omar Abdurrahman group – a previously unknown group – claimed responsibility for the attack.

June 6, 2012:  An improvised explosive device (IED) blew a hole in the security perimeter of the U.S. consulate. The Omar Abdurrahman group makes an “unsubstantiated claim” of responsibility for the attack.

June 8, 2012: A parked U.K. diplomatic vehicle was attacked with hand grenades in Sabha, which is about 500 miles south of Benghazi.

June 10, 2012:  A two-car convoy escorting the British Ambassador came under a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack in Benghazi.

June 11, 2012: The Red Cross building in Misrata – about 250 miles west of Benghazi – was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

June 18, 2012: The Tunisian consulate in Benghazi was stormed by protestors.

Late June 2012:  International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building in Benghazi was attacked. The building, located near the U.S. consulate, came under RPG attack back in May. The ICRC pulled out of Benghazi.


July 9, 2012: 

Ambassador Chris Stevens and Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom sent a cable to the State Department requesting the extension of TDY (temporary duty) security personnel for another 60 to 90 days and asked for additional security personnel to be staffed at the Tripoli Embassy amid the deteriorating conditions in Libya.

“Overall security conditions continue to be unpredictable with large numbers of armed groups and individuals not under control of the central government, and frequent clashes in Tripoli and other major population centers,” according to the cable. “Efforts to normalize security operations have been hindered by the lack of nation security support…an increase in violence against foreign targets, and Government of Libya delays in issuing firearm permits [for body guard units].”

The Embassy noted that there will be “an increased likelihood of election related politicization violence during and after the election period” which was delayed from June 19 to July 7, 2012.

As for Benghazi security, they wrote that the mission “anticipates supporting operations in Benghazi with at least one permanently assigned RSO employee from Tripoli, however, would request continued TDY support to fill a minimum of 3 security positions in Benghazi” to transition from “emergency to normalized security operations.”


July 29, 2012:  An improvised explosive device (IED) was found at the Tibesti Hotel.

July 30, 2012: A Sudanese diplomat was carjacked.

July 31, 2012: Iranian Red Cross workers were abducted.


Aug. 2, 2012: 

Another cable from the Tripoli Embassy was sent to the State Department requesting 11 locally-employed staff (LES) body guards to “fill the vacuum of security personnel currently on post [on temporary duty status] who will be leaving within the next month and not replaced.” The Security Support Team (SST) were scheduled to withdraw on Aug. 3, 2012.

The Embassy estimated that it could cost $335,045.36 to hire 10 bodyguards and supervisor for a year. The additional locally employed officers would help “maintain the Protective Ring of Security necessary” to protect the Embassy.

The cable pointed out that after the elections, the “security condition in Libya remains unpredictable, volatile, and violent” due to the “lack of coherent national Libyan security force and the strength of local militias and large numbers of armed groups.” The cable also mentioned that the mission was proceeding with security improvements to the Embassy.


Aug. 5, 2012: The Red Cross withdrew its staff in Benghazi and Misrata following a RPG attack against its office in Misrata.

Aug. 9, 2012: A Spanish-American non-governmental organization (NGO) worker was abducted from the Islamic Cultural Center and later released.

Aug. 20, 2012: A bomb was thrown at an Egyptian diplomatic vehicle parked outside the Egyptian consulate.


Aug. 20, 2012:

The U.S. consulate in Benghazi sent a cable detailing the increasing violence and lawlessness in eastern Libya.

The cable observed that the local government is in “disarray”, raising the question of “who is actually in charge?”

The cable also noted the rising crimes on the streets, stating that “incidents continue in this security vacuum”, including a grenade attack against an Army Colonel and a raid of a local newspaper.


Sept. 11, 2012: 

On the day he was killed, Ambassador Stevens sent a memo to the State Department raising concerns about the expanding “Islamist influence” in eastern Libya. He reported that the port city of Derna has seen “increased criminality, including carjacking, thefts, and murders” purportedly linked to the Abu Salim Brigade.

Stevens also noted that the local Benghazi council expressed frustration at the slow pace of reforms promised by the transitional government.


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