Testimony sheds new light on Benghazi

Two different sets of fighters were possibly involved in the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans, according to The Associated Press

In previously unreleased testimony provided by the House Armed Services Committee, military officials said the first assault on the diplomatic mission, which killed Stephens, could have been carried out by separate attackers than the assault nearly eight hours later on a CIA annex about a mile away that killed two other U.S. security officers. 

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Retired Gen. Carter Ham testified earlier this year that the attack on the second CIA facility showed significant military training not seen in the first attack, according to the AP. The attack could have been carried out by a separate set of attackers who took advantage of reports of violence at the first facility. 

"If the team [that launched the second attack] was already there, then why didn't they shoot sooner?" he asked. Eight hours elapsed between the two attacks. 

The second attack, Ham said, had "a degree of sophistication and military training that is relatively unusual and certainly, I think, indicates that this was not a pickup team. This was not a couple of guys who just found a mortar someplace."

Another defense official said the first attack on the diplomatic facility seemed to have a sense of purpose, which "sometimes gets confused because you had looters and everyone else coming in. It was less than kind of full, thought-out, methodical."

The previously unreleased testimony comes after the House set up a select committee to reinvestigate the events surrounding the attacks. Democrats have knocked the committee as a political ploy. 

Last month, the U.S. military and FBI captured the first suspect in the attacks, Ahmed Abu Khattala. He pleaded not guilty to one count of providing support to an attack on a federal facility last month. 

On Wednesday night, Democrats seized on the transcripts' release, which they say put to bed the notion that the military was ever given a stand down order. 

"The release of the transcripts today underscores a number of important points," ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said. "First and foremost, our military did everything it could to save American lives in Benghazi. The military responded appropriately, quickly, to the best of its ability at that time, and no 'stand down' order was ever issued. Any suggestions to the contrary are offensive and downright wrong."

"The transcripts tell a tantalizing story of Americans trying to understand what was happening in Benghazi and save the lives of their countrymen," he added. "It was a frantic and difficult effort and unfortunately four brave Americans died. But it was not due to a lack of effort or a government conspiracy, as some continue to claim."