CAIRO — Libyans tried to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens, cheering “God is great” and rushing him to a hospital after they discovered him still clinging to life inside the U.S. Consulate, according to witnesses and a new video that emerged Monday from last week’s attack in the city of Benghazi.
The group of Libyans had stumbled across Stevens’ seemingly lifeless form inside a dark room, the man who shot the video and two other witnesses told The Associated Press.
The account underlines the confusion that reigned during the assault by protesters and heavily armed gunmen that overwhelmed the consulate in Benghazi last Tuesday night, killing four Americans, including Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation soon after he was found. U.S. officials are still trying to piece together how the top American diplomat in Libya got separated from others as staffers were evacuated.
The Libyans who found him expressed frustration that there was no ambulance and no first aid on hand, leaving him to be slung over a man’s shoulder to be carried to a car.
“There was not a single ambulance to carry him. Maybe he was handled the wrong way,” said Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer who shot the footage. “They took him to a private car.”
U.S. and Libyan officials are also trying to determine who was behind the attack.
On Sunday, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif contended foreign militants had been plotting the attack for months and timed it for Tuesday’s 9/11 anniversary.
However, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said it appeared spontaneous and unplanned, that extremists with heavier weapons “hijacked” the protest and turned it into an outright attack.
Soon after the attack, Libyan civilians roamed freely around the trashed consulate, its walls blacked and furniture burned. Among them were the videographer al-Bakoush, and a photographer and art student he often works with. They heard a panicked shout and rushed to see what was going on, al-Bakoush said. The body had been found inside a dark room with a locked door accessible only by a window. A group of men pulled him out and realized he was a foreigner and still alive.
The video taken by al-Bakoush and posted on YouTube shows Stevens being carried out of the room through a window with a raised shutter. Al-Bakoush said they put Stevens in a private car to rush to the hospital.
The video has been authenticated since Stevens’ face is clearly visible and he is wearing the same white T-shirt seen in authenticated photos of him being carried away on another man’s shoulders, presumably moments later.
“We were happy to see him alive. The youths tried to rescue him. But there was no security, no ambulances, nothing to help,” Ahmed Shams, the 22-year-old arts student, said.
When they entered the consulate, “there was no one around. There was no fire fighters, no ambulances, no relief,” said the photographer, Abdel-Qader Fadl.
Al-Bakoush and his colleagues said that once they learned his identity, they were stunned Stevens had been alone.
“I’ve never seen incompetence and negligence like this, from the two sides, the Americans and the Libyans,” he said. “You can sacrifice everyone but rescue the ambassador. He is the ambassador for God’s sake.”