TODAY   |  October 10, 2012

New details in attack that killed US ambassador

The State Department offered new details on the Benghazi attack, describing a major assault by heavily armed militias and not the spontaneous copycat demonstration that some officials had originally described. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>> we'll start, of course, with the new details on the attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi, libya . nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell has the details. andrea, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. officials describe in dramatic detail a major assault by heavily armed militias, not the spontaneous copycat demonstration other officials had originally described. ofcials say all was quiet on the night of the attack until 9:40 p.m . when teams of men invaded the compound. security agents took ambassador christopher stevens to a bunker inside the residence. the attackers sprayed diesel fuel igniting the building. trapped inside unable to see or breathe through heavy smoke, the ambassador and a security agent tried to escape through a bathroom window. the agent got out but then couldn't find the ambassador. his body turned up hours later in the hospital where the staff had dialed numbers in his cell phone to identify him. eventually surviving agents drove an armored vehicle through heavy fire from an ak-47 to an annex several miles away . the main compound was hit by mortar fire and survivors fled on a jet flown in from tripoli. at a hearing this morning officials will testify they had asked for more security for months and were turned down, claiming the administration was in a hurry to turn security over to libya . republic jason chaffetz just returned from libya .

>> if you can't add that up as a potential security threat, my goodness, all the signs were there. there was a request for more personnel. that was denied. in fact, they reduced the number of personnel.

>> reporter: the state department denies it ever turned down such requests and blamed republican cuts on the security threat. committee democrats complain they have had no witness to key witness or to documents. matt?

>> andrea mitchell in washington on