U.S. officials gave instructions for Benghazi Medical Center to use a “John Doe” pseudonym on the death certificate of Ambassador Christopher Stevens after he died of asphyxiation in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. That’s according to a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity because the official isn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The reason for the pseudonym, says the official, was to avoid drawing undue attention to the importance of the victim as Americans rushed to figure out how to recover Stevens’ body and return it to the U.S.
The official provided the most complete accounting yet of Stevens’ whereabouts and passing in the eight and a half months since his death.
According to the official, U.S. officials aren’t certain to this day whether Stevens was still alive when local Libyans made cell phone video recordings of his body being carried or dragged from the U.S. mission, possibly by looters. And they still don’t know exactly who transported him to the Benghazi Medical Center where they say medical personnel attempted resuscitation, unsuccessfully, for about 40 minutes (90 minutes, according to published accounts from a Libyan doctor). When pieced together with previously provided information, this is how the search for Stevens is said to have unfolded, according to the official:
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, around the 10 p.m. hour (4 p.m. ET), State Department Information Officer Sean Smith’s body had been pulled from the burned out U.S. mission, but nobody was able to locate Stevens in the smoky building. In the 11 p.m. hour (5 p.m. ET), a group of Libyans, possibly looters, found Stevens and pulled him out of the U.S. mission. Somebody transported him to Benghazi Medical Center where CPR was attempted. Initially, it’s believed that doctors did not know who Stevens was. An unidentified man speaking Arabic used a cell phone Stevens had in his possession to call the U.S. embassy in Tripoli (the number was programmed into the phone). He seemed to want Americans to come to the hospital to retrieve Stevens, but U.S. officials were suspicious. The hospital was known to be under the influence of hostile militia and Embassy officials sensed a possible trap, so they opted not to attempt to send a U.S. rescue team now waiting at Benghazi’s airport.
A familiar local to whom Americans refer as “Babakar” sent word to the U.S. embassy that Stevens had, indeed, passed away. Babakar sent some of his associates to recover Stevens’ body at the hospital. When hospital officials asked what name should be entered on the death certificate, U.S. officials relayed the message to use “John Doe.” Babakar’s associates eventually transported Stevens’ body to the airport where it was turned over to Americans.
Stevens’ body was flown from Benghazi to Tripoli, Libya’s capital the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 12 and President Obama was informed of the Ambassador’s death. That night, a C-17 military aircraft carrying Stevens’ body and three other American victims arrived in Ramstein, Germany. On Friday, Sept. 14, the victims’ bodies arrived in the U.S. at Andrews Air Force base for a ceremony. Stevens’ body was then taken to an FBI facility in Dover, Del., for an autopsy which revealed he died of asphyxia, presumably from smoke inhalation. Officials found no internal damage, no indication of assault and no mistreatment of his body. Stevens was then transported to a funeral home on Saturday, Sept. 15 and cremated, at his family’s request.