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—Around midnight: The military hears conflicting reports about Stevens. Libyan leaders say the ambassador is alive and safe. Others say an American is at a hospital in Benghazi. This raises fears that Stevens may be held hostage by the militia controlling that hospital.
—Shortly after midnight: A six-man U.S. security team, including two Special Forces members, takes off from Tripoli on a chartered flight to Benghazi. Their plan: Go to the hospital and find Stevens.
Meanwhile, in Washington, senior defense officials make plans to deploy military teams from Spain, Croatia and the United States. But it will take hours for them to prepare, take off and cover the distance to Libya. (In the end, only the anti-terror team from Spain will complete the journey, arriving in Tripoli after the Americans have been evacuated.)
—1:30 a.m. Wednesday: The security team lands in Benghazi to look for the ambassador, but the members are detained at the airport by Libyan militia.
—2 a.m.: A military officer in Tripoli, who has been relaying updates to the Africa command center, hears word that some Americans in Benghazi have been wounded, but no details. He keeps pressing for a plane for evacuation. He's told no U.S. plane will be available for hours.
Embassy and military officials, fearing the embassy in Tripoli could be targeted for a terror attack, decide to evacuate the staff to a more secure, classified location at dawn. Following State Department policy, staffers begin burning documents and smash computer hard drives with an ax.
SECOND DEADLY ATTACK
—Before dawn, Wednesday, Sept. 12: The security team is still at the Benghazi airport. One holdup: Libyan officials insist those in uniform change into civilian clothes. The team gets word that Stevens is believed to be dead, his body at a hospital. They change plans and, finally allowed to leave, head for the CIA compound to help defend and evacuate it. They arrive just before a deadly mortar attack begins.
—5:15 a.m.: Mortar fire hits the CIA roof, killing security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Other Americans are seriously injured. Ham says in hindsight that the 11-minute assault looked like a carefully targeted hit by well-trained militants.
—Around 6 a.m.: A Libyan military unit arrives to escort the Americans from the CIA post to the Benghazi airport for evacuation to Tripoli, aboard a Libyan plane. In Tripoli, the U.S. Embassy is in the midst of evacuating about three dozen people with the help of Defense Department personnel.
—Before 6:30 a.m.: After helping secure and then evacuate the embassy in Tripoli, Army Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, the leader of a four-man special operations group, decides his team should go help in Benghazi. He calls the special operations command for Africa to inform them, and is ordered not to go, but to remain in place safeguarding U.S. personnel in Tripoli.
Gibson later testifies that his flight would have arrived in Benghazi too late to help, and would have crossed paths with a plane bringing the wounded back to Tripoli.
—7:40 a.m.: The first evacuation plane, carrying the wounded, takes off from Benghazi. They are met at the Tripoli airport by the special ops team's medic, who is credited with saving one man's life.
—10 a.m.: A plane carrying the rest of the U.S. personnel, and the bodies of the four Americans who were killed, takes off from Benghazi for Tripoli.
—2:15 p.m.: A U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane sent from Germany arrives in Tripoli, ready to evacuate the Americans. Five hours later, the evacuees and the remains of the victims leave Libya.