Senior officials at the State Department on Tuesday night presented a greatly revised account of the events surrounding the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya, abandoning earlier assertions that the assault had grown out of a protests against an anti-Islam film.
The shift in narrative from the State Department comes amid revelations the Obama administration told U.S. diplomats during the months leading up to the attack to draw down security in Libya in an effort to show that life was returning to normal after the revolution that shook the North African nation last year.
Eric Nordstrom, who headed diplomatic security in Libya until June, is expected to testify Wednesday before a House committee examining the attacks that he made two requests to Washington for additional security personnel to be posted at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, but received no response.
Senior State Department officials, meanwhile, now say the Sept. 11 evening was a quiet one in Benghazi that became very suddenly violent about 9:40 p.m. when officials at the compound heard “gunfire and explosions.”
Within seconds, a camera monitoring the main gate of the compound revealed “a large number of men, armed men flowing” through the gates, one of the senior State Department official said on a Tuesday night conference call on the condition of anonymity.
The officials described an intense series of events in which the compound’s main building was set ablaze while a firefight ensued outside. Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed.
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