A soot-soaked copy of a memorandum found in the looted security office shows that as late as Sept. 9, American security officials were working to “clarify the work requirements and expectations” of the 17th February Martyrs Brigade, the militia that had been tasked with securing the Americans since they established the mission in 2011.
The document, cast as a request, specified that in case of an attack the guards “will request additional support” from their militia’s nearby base. The guards did so during the Sept. 11 attack, according to Libyan security officials, guards who were present from the beginning and other members of the 17th February militia who were summoned within minutes.
But a second militia, Rafallah al-Sehati, that had not previously been involved in guarding the Americans, was also asked to provide assistance that night, a spokesman for the militia said. The group has been backed by the Libyan government and provides security in Benghazi, which has a minimally developed police force. But one of its leaders has described himself as a “jihadist,” and Rafallah al-Sehati officials said that weapons capable of taking down airplanes were stolen when their compound was overrun by protesters last month.
Jamal Aboshala, a spokesman for Rafallah al-Sehati, said the request came at 3 a.m. local time from Fawzi Bukhatif, the commander of the 17th February militia. He said that American officials had initially declined an offer of help, and were later reluctant to share with militia members the precise location of an annex to which they had retreated.
“Really, they mixed up. They didn’t know an enemy from a friend,” said Fawzi Wanis al-Gaddafi, the head of Benghazi’s Supreme Security Committee. “It was a messy night.”
The American protocols were posted on the wall in the former security office and scattered on the floor in the form of laminated index cards when a reporter entered the mission this week. The protocols were dated 2011 and appear to have been at least partly outdated. Among telephone numbers listed as emergency contacts to summon extra security support, one routed to a former commander who said he left the militia six months ago.
Among the items listed as priorities in the case of an emergency, the first was “secure principal officer,” or the ambassador. Stevens went missing in the blaze and had not been accounted for when the Americans evacuated to the annex, a step that was called for under the protocols.
Posted on the wall was a gloomy accounting of security incidents in Benghazi, detailing attacks, explosions and battles between June 1, 2011, and Sept. 2 of this year. Of the 38 incidents, 27 happened since July 26 of this year.
Abigail Hauslohner in Cairo, Ayman Alkekly in Benghazi, and Anne Gearan and Greg Miller in Washington contributed to this report.