J. Christopher Stevens

WASHINGTON — J. Christopher Stevens arrived in Benghazi, Libya, in April 2011 aboard a Greek cargo ship carrying a dozen American diplomats and guards and enough vehicles and equipment to set up a diplomatic beachhead in the middle of an armed rebellion.

Even then, the polarized views about the NATO-led intervention were on display, as were the dangers of diplomacy in a turbulent nation. The rebels fighting Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had hoisted American, British and French flags in the plaza in Benghazi that they renamed Freedom Square, Mr. Stevens often recalled, but a car bomb later exploded in the parking lot of the hotel where he had settled.

That forced him to move into the villa in Benghazi where, more than a year later, he died Tuesday. Mr. Stevens, 52, and three other State Department employees were killed during a prolonged assault on the mission, which he was visiting to inaugurate a cultural center as part of his efforts to deepen ties in a new Libya.

He became the first United States ambassador killed in an attack while on duty since Adolph Dubs was kidnapped and killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1979. The circumstances of the attack — including the motives and any security lapses — are still not known.

Christopher J. Stevens


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