Recently, I asked the Turkish Consul General in Benghazi, Ali Akin, what he could tell me about the night of September 11, 2012. Ali Akin, according to the State Department timeline of events that night, was the last person to meet with the late Amb. Christopher Stevens before the US compound in Benghazi was attacked at 9:40 pm.
As the State background briefer put it on October 9:
About 7:30 in the evening, he [Stevens] has his last meeting. It is with a Turkish diplomat. And at – when the meeting is over, at 8:30 – he has all these meetings, by the way, in what I call Building C – when the meeting is over, he escorts the Turkish diplomat to the main gate. There is an agent there with them. They say goodbye. They’re out in a street in front of the compound. Everything is calm at 8:30 p.m. There’s nothing unusual. There has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside.
Ali Akin was that Turkish diplomat. To my knowledge, this is the first time his version of events has been published.
Here is what Akin wrote:
- I arrive at the US Consulate at 18.30 and our meeting ended at 19.30. At 19.45 we left the premises completely.
- The venue and hour of the meeting was fixed by Chris.
- When i was there and left the area there was nothing abnormal. There were no roadblocks, no armed men, nothing extraordinary or suspicious. I left my car with 2 security guards in it in front of the Consulate in the middle of the road for an hour.
- On that evening neither Chris nor me was worried about our security. Basically, we did not perceive such a threat for that day. He was relaxed. Among the issues we also mentioned the general security situation in Benghazi and Chris said that he is aware of deteriorating security situation here in general and as a caution he preferred to stay at the Consulate rather than going out to restaurants, mentioning what happened to the convoy of the British Ambassador in Benghazi several months ago. I agreed and confirmed his view.
- I was informed by Turkish police advisor in the UN mission in Benghazi about the attack around 22.00 o'clock. We all thought and told that it was a protest against the movie just as the one in Cairo. I did not realize until next morning how it was serious and deadly.
- I do not think that it was an attack against Ambassador Stevens. I do not think that they knew that he was there. If they had known that they would not have left him there.
Me, personally, i did not know that there was an annex. US diplomats are very discreet about their security arrangements and we respect that due to the threats they are faced.
Maybe I've read too many Eric Ambler novels, but I find it hard to believe Turkey's man in Benghazi was unaware of the CIA annex. As for whether they discussed weaponry from the Qadaffi stockpiles and where they might be going; the Libyan flagged vessel al-Entisaar which was received in the port of Iskenderun on September 6, 2012; the conflict in Syria and how the opposition to President Assad could be supported by the US and Turkey, he replied they didn't discuss any such issues, adding:
It was a private meeting. Furthermore, as a remote consulate we do not deal with political issues here. Basically they are not under my domain.
A striking point in Ali Akin's timeline is his arrival and departure times. The State Department says Akin's meeting with Stevens began at 7:30 pm and ended at 8:30 pm. Akin, however, says he arrived at 6:30 pm (18:30) and "left the premises completely" by 7:45 pm (19:45). This becomes relevant due to AP reporting that has established the emplacement of Ansar al Sharia checkpoints by around 8pm -- after Ali Akin says he departed, but before the State Department says he departed. Fox News, meanwhile, has reported:
Both American and British sources say multiple roadblocks set up by fighters believed to be with Ansar al-Sharia were in place in Benghazi several hours before the 9:40 p.m. timeline and that communications also alluded to "heavily armed troops showing up with artillery.
Who's right? One US source with knowledge of Benghazi told me he wouldn't be surprised if the State Department timeline was wrong, given the general effort by the administration to compress the amount of time over which the terrible events of the night unfolded. It's amost certain that Ali Akin's arrival and departure have been recorded in a log or video and thus can be established definitively.
This same source was also dubious about the idea that Stevens' presence in Benghazi had gone undetected; and, also, that the presence of the CIA annex was unknown to Ali Akin. Meanwhile, Akin's mention of the "Turkish police advisor in the UN mission in Benghazi" again raises questions about what allied assets were in the area that might have been called to assist our people under fire. Were they called? If not, why not?
The Turkish diplomat also sent along the message he posted on the US Tripoli Embassy Facebook page. In it we learn that he met Stevens for the first and last time on 9/11/12. We also see reference to Stevens' love for Benghazi, which remains disconcerting given the local jihad culture and leading per capita numbers of of fighters eastern Libya sent to fight Americans in Iraq.
Here is Akin's post in full:
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2012 20:24:00 +0000
"Sorry Chris ! Benghazi could not protect you". A small number of people of Benghazi gathering in a square on September 12, 2012 to protest against the attack on the US Consulate which murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 members of his team was holding such a placard.
I thank those brothers and sisters that came forward for Chris. As they said, "Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans" indeed.
I am probably the last visitor he had on that day. I visited him at 18.30h . We were together for an hour at the very place in which he lost his life several hours later.
This was the first meeting of us. But we knew each other well and were good friends already. Because we were both comrades with Benghazi people in their struggle for freedom and almost the first ones to come to Benghazi for help at these hard times of March and April 2011.
Chris came voluntarily as me. His arrival was a big morale and strength to the Revolutionaries. I was here on the night of 18 March 2011 and later when Benghazi was shaking by tank shells and grad rockets. Many were fleeing . We stayed and tried to counter it as Mustafa Abdulcelil, Abdulhafiz Goga, Fethi Baca and Abdulkerim Bezama did. I am a first hand witness of those desperate times and these brave men.
In my meeting with Chris on that evening, we recalled these old times and heroic struggle of Benghazi people. I told him that i served both in Tripoli and Benghazi during the uprising , yet i prefer to be in Benghazi. He agreed and said that he miss Benghazi and its warm people . I encouraged him to come to Benghazi and other cities in the eastern Libya more often. He agreed and we decided next time to go to Beyda and visit Mr Abdulcelil there.
Killing an innocent man is a great sin and one could only wish forgiveness for perpetrators against its huge punishment.
As Chris said Benghazi people are friendly, brave and decent. They did not allow tyranny. They will also not allow violence and hatred.
Benghazi will not forget Chris Stevens. Peace be upon him. Sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues.
Ali Akin, Turkish Consul General in Benghazi.