How Many People Died at Benghazi?

March 11, 2024

Thirteen months after Moammar Qaddafi’s regime fell, Benghazi was a lawless, blood-soaked city where the U.S. consulate was guarded by just one local militia and unarmed contractors. On Sept. 11, 2012, armed militants attacked the compound, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Initially, Clinton and other Obama administration officials linked the assault to a worldwide protest that had been sparked by an anti-Islam movie trailer posted online. But the 2014 report by a House Intelligence Committee found that there was confusion in the days immediately after the attack, and that early intelligence assessments were contradictory.

In the 18 months since then, Libya has been wracked by violence as the armed groups that helped defeat Qaddafi turned their guns on each other in a struggle for power and oil wealth. In Benghazi, special army forces allied to militias of ex-general Khalifa Haftar have been fighting Islamist brigades including Ansar al-Sharia, accused of killing Stevens.

The families of many victims point the finger at Islamist militias, while Libyan officials and media outlets blame pro-Qaddafi “loyalist” sleeper cells from abroad. A survey by human rights group Human Rights Watch found that on average, 35 people died in seemingly targeted assassinations each month in Benghazi and the eastern city of Derna. The killings have been driven by revenge, score-settling, tribal feuds, religious disagreements and ordinary criminal acts. But the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi and other parts of Libya has also made it more difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities there.


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