An official State Department investigation into an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi met for a second day Friday, as reports emerged that a request to keep a U.S. plane in Libya had been denied.
The five-member accountability review board has been tasked by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to look into the assault on the consulate, in which four Americans were killed, and whether security procedures were followed.
The board has 60 days to report to Clinton, amid mounting allegations of serious safety lapses and that requests for extra security had been refused despite several attacks on U.S. and Western interests in Benghazi.
ABC news reported Friday it had obtained an email from Miki Rankin, the post management officer for Libya and Saudi Arabia, in which a request to keep a DC-3 plane in Libya to help a security support team at the Tripoli embassy was denied.
Rankin wrote it was “determined that support for Embassy Tripoli using the DC-3 will be terminated immediately” in the email, which was copied to ambassador Chris Stevens who died in the Sept. 11 attack.
If needed, a special flight for the security team would be chartered, he added in the email dated May 3.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner confirmed Friday that a plane, which he believed was a DC-3, had been in Libya earlier this year.
“This plane was in Iraq at the time and moved to support Libya early on when... there was no commercial airline service into Libya. This is a very common practice in places where there’s no commercial airline service,” he told reporters.
He said the plane, one of a number of DC-3s that revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s but went out of production in 1945, had been used to ferry American staff between Tripoli and Benghazi and possibly also other stops in Libya.
Once commercial airline service resumed in Libya, the plane which belongs to the State Department was “reassigned to other State Department business,” he said, adding he believed it was moved back to Iraq.
But he refused to be drawn on the specifics of the request to keep the plane in Libya, saying that was for the inquiry to look into.
On the night of the attack, State Department officials have said that they had to charter a plane to ferry all the Benghazi staff, including the dead and wounded, from the city back to Tripoli. Although they have not confirmed how many people were evacuated, they said it took two flights to get them all out.
State Department officials are to appear before a House committee hearing next week into the security situation at the consulate.
Meanwhile, Toner confirmed that U.S. officials had been in touch with Turkish authorities over reports that two men were arrested in Turkey in connection with the Benghazi attack.