The events in Benghazi and the U.S. reaction

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed Tuesday in an assault on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Here is a look at the sequence of events in Cairo and Benghazi on Tuesday -- and how quickly they became political in the United States. Read our live coverage.

CairoTuesday, 6:17 a.m. ET

U.S. Embassy in Cairo issues tweet

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo issues a statement that obliquely referenced the controversy over an anti-Islam film made by a U.S.-based real estate developer. The statement said the embassy condemned efforts by “misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” Around the same time, pieces of that statement were sent out as tweets from the official embassy twitter account.

We firmly reject the actions of those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Around the same time, a pair of now-deleted tweets reportedly say:

We condemn the ongoing attempts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.
as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.

CairoTuesday, 10:15 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Crowd begins to gather

Protesters chant slogans amid orange smoke outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

Protesters chant slogans amid orange smoke outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The protest was inspired at least in part by an allegations of an anti-Islamic film in the United States. Several protesters said that their preachers had told them to come out to demonstrate in front of the embassy on Tuesday. (Mohammed Abu Zaid / AP)

A small crowd begins gathering outside the embassy. Over the next several hours, the crowd grows larger and more aggressive. A group of protesters scales the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and enters its outer grounds. The group pulls down an American flag, then tries to burn it outside the embassy walls, according to witnesses.

U.S.Tuesday, 1:05 p.m.

State Department spokesperson makes statement

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she learned about the Cairo protests just before her daily press briefing.

We are obviously working with Egyptian security to try to restore order at the Embassy and to work with them to try to get the situation under control.

U.S.Tuesday, 4 p.m.

Gunfire in Benghazi

The consulate is seen in flames. The attacks were apparently prompted by outrage over an amateur anti-Muslim film made in the United States.

The consulate is seen in flames. The attacks were apparently prompted by outrage over an amateur anti-Muslim film made in the United States. (Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters)

Unidentified gunman begin firing at U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi. Security personnel become separated from U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens in a burning building. Americans huddle in an annex building, taking fire for two hours until Libyan security forces arrive to drive away the attackers. Three Americans are killed on the scene.

location of attacks

CairoTuesday, 5:28 p.m.

Cairo embassy tweets responses to criticism

The Cairo embassy’s Twitter account posts a series of messages, apparently responding to criticism that its earlier statement had been too sympathetic with the protesters.

Of course we condemn breaches of our compound, we’re the ones actually living through this.
Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry.

LibyaTuesday, 7 p.m.

Stevens taken to Benghazi Medical Center

U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens is taken to a Benghazi hospital where he is dead on arrival, according to a hospital official. A Libyan doctor told the Associated Press that Stevens died of asphyxia, likely caused by smoke inhalation.

CairoTuesday, 7:30 p.m.

More tweets from U.S. embassy

The Cairo embassy’s Twitter account posts another message, since deleted. News sites like Buzzfeed have said it read:

This morning's condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy.

LibyaTuesday, 7:45 p.m.

AP NewsAlert

Libyan security official says 1 American shot dead, another wounded in attack on US consulate.

U.S.Tuesday, 10:08 p.m.

Clinton confirms death

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirms that a State Department officer was killed in Benghazi. She condemns the attack, stating:

Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

U.S.Tuesday, 10:09 p.m.

Romney issues statement attacking Obama administration

Mitt Romney issues a statement on the attacks:

It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

The statement was initially embargoed until midnight but the campaign lifted the embargo at 10:25 p.m. The statement referred to the tweet from the Cairo embassy, which was issued before the extent of the damage in Benghazi was known.

U.S.Tuesday, 10:10 p.m.

Obama administration distances itself

POLITICO reports that the Obama administration distanced itself from the Cairo embassy’s original statement. An administration official told POLITICO:

The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.

Jake Tapper of ABC news also reported the same statement.

U.S.Wednesday, 12:01 a.m.

Republican National Committee chairman tweets

U.S.Wednesday, 12:10 a.m.

Obama spokesman makes statement

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt:

We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.

U.S.Wednesday, 7:21 a.m.

Obama confirms death

President Obama confirms the death of U.S. ambassador Stevens.

U.S.Wednesday, 10:15 a.m.

Romney reiterates criticism

Romney reiterates his criticism of the Obama administration:

I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It's never too early for the United States Government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn't ‘cleared by Washington.’ That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
John Gordon Mein; Cleo A. Noel, Jr.; Rodger P. Davies; Francis E. Meloy, Jr.; Adolph Dubs

SOURCE: Staff reports; U.S. State Department. GRAPHIC: Emily Chow, David Fahrenthold, Laris Karklis, Bill Webster and Karen Yourish - The Washington Post. Published Sept. 12, 2012.