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U.S. commander in Libya denies being ordered to stand down

WASHINGTON -- The former commander of a four-member Army special forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, denied yesterday that he was told to stand down during last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

In a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson said his commanders told him to remain in the Libyan capital of Tripoli to defend Americans in case of additional attacks and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.

"Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to 'stand down' by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi," the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing with Gibson and other military officials.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in two separate attacks several hours apart on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

Many Republicans insist that the Obama administration is guilty of a cover-up of the events despite a scathing independent report that faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the diplomatic mission. They have accused the administration of misleading the American people about the cause of the terrorist attack during the heat of a presidential campaign.

In nearly nine months since the attack, GOP lawmakers have repeatedly asked why the military couldn't get aircraft or forces to Benghazi in time to thwart the second attack after the first assault that killed Stevens.

The committee summary said Gibson acknowledged that if he had left Tripoli, Americans there would have been without protection.

"He also stated that in hindsight, he would not have been able to get to Benghazi in time to make a difference," said the summary from the Armed Services Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee.

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