The other four agents were able to then reunite, taking an armored vehicle to Stevens’ building. They reached the collapsed agent and tried to set up a perimeter, taking turns going into the building and searching on hands and knees for the missing Americans. Smith was pulled out, dead. Stevens could not be found.
A six-member quick reaction security team arrived on the scene from its compound across town, the officials said. About 60 Libyan militiamen accompanied the team, and it again tried to secure a perimeter around Stevens’ building, taking turns searching inside. Taking fire, the Libyan forces determined they couldn’t hold the perimeter. An evacuation plan was quickly put in place to retreat to the reaction force’s compound.
The evacuation proved anything but easy. Agents piled into an armored vehicle with Smith’s body, facing immediate fire as they left through the main gate. Crowds and groups of men blocked two different routes to the security compound, so the Americans looked for an alternate way through heavy traffic at a speed of about 15 mph, so they wouldn’t attract attention.
On a narrow street, according to officials, the agents reached a group of men who signaled for them to enter a compound. They sensed an ambush and sped away, but not before taking heavy fire from AK-47 machine guns at a distance of only 2 feet and hand grenades thrown against and under the car. Two tires were blown out.
They raced past another crowd of men and onto a main street, crossing a grassy median into opposing traffic. The agents then drove against oncoming traffic, eventually reaching their compound.
Once there they had to endure several more hours of intermittent gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades fired their way.
A team of reinforcements from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli arrived on a chartered aircraft at the Benghazi airport and reached the security compound.
But the Americans could do little when their main building was hit by mortar fire around 4 a.m. Two security personnel were killed, and one agent who had been involved in the earlier fighting was severely wounded.
The men decided to leave the city. They spent the next hours securing the annex and moving a large convoy of vehicles to the airport.
They flew out on two planes.