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U.S. Commandos: We Were Ordered To “Stand Down” During Benghazi Attack

Five American commandos who responded to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi are telling their story for the first time in a new book.

Posted on September 5, 2014, at 12:48 a.m. ET

Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters / Reuters

A protester at the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

A team of commandos who responded to the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012 are now telling their story for the first time.

The former U.S. special forces officers were hired as contractors to defend a CIA base in Benghazi. On Sept. 11, 2012, just after 9:30 p.m., they got word that the U.S. diplomatic facility about a mile away was under attack.

The five-member team tells the story of what happened next in a new book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, due out next week. The commandos, two of whom use pseudonyms, are listed as co-authors, along with Boston University journalism professor Mitchell Zuckoff. The attack ultimately resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans.

The New York Times and Fox News both received an advance copy of the book, and Fox News will air interviews with some of the men Friday. But for now, here are the most important details to emerge from their story:

Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters / Reuters

The U.S. diplomatic facility in flames on Sept. 11, 2012.

The commandos were ready to rescue the Americans under attack at the diplomatic facility, but were ordered to "stand down, you need to wait."

Probably the most significant revelation from the commandos' story so far is that they were prepared to help. "Hey, we gotta go now! We're losing the initiative!" the Times quoted one of the commandos as saying.

Instead of racing to the scene, however, the CIA officer in charge of the base ordered them to stand down. Both the Times and Fox News say that officer is identified in the book only as "Bob."

Bob seemingly gave the order to hold back "on his own authority," the Times reports, and said he hoped to get Libyan militiamen to rescue the diplomatic facility.

Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters / Reuters

The U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

The order to stand down may have been given to avoid blowing the CIA's cover.

The CIA base was secret, and the commandos speculate in the book that Bob may have given the order to hold back because he "hoped the Libyans could carry out the rescue alone to avoid exposing the CIA base," the Times writes.

Upon learning of the attack, the security team geared up for battle so quickly they didn't even fully get dressed.

The commandos said they were ready to go within minutes. "Five minutes, we're ready," Kris Paronto, a member of the commando team, told Fox News. "It was thumbs up, thumbs up, we're ready to go."

The Times adds that the commandos were in such a rush that one man never put on underwear, while another "went into battle in cargo shorts."

Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters / Reuters

The U.S. facility in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

The commandos heard people at the diplomatic facility yelling for help over the radio.

"If you guys do not get here, we are going to die!" a security agent at the diplomatic facility shouted, according to the Times.

Handout / Reuters

Images taken from surveillance footage show men who may have been connected to the attack.

Eventually the commandos went to the diplomatic facility anyway, without orders.

After waiting in their vehicles while the attack unfolded for about 20 minutes, the commandos ultimately decided to head to the diplomatic facility without orders. Fox News says they left about 30 minutes after the attack began, and the Times reports that they arrived about 10 minutes later.

The commandos also called for armed air support, which they never received, according to Fox News.

The commandos engaged the attackers and noticed that security personnel at the facility had retreated. They then spent much of the rest of the night "in off-and-on gun battles with fighters lurking in the shadows," the Times reports.

Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters / Reuters

The U.S. diplomatic facility on Sept. 11, 2012.

The commandos said the delay may have cost the ambassador his life.

Both Paronto and John Tiegen, another member of the team, said the delay likely cost Stevens and Smith their lives. "I strongly believe if we'd left immediately, they'd still be alive today," Paronto told Fox News.

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