U.S. Presence in Libya: A Brief History

VIDEO: Christopher Stevens was killed after Libyans militants stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

When a mob attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, it was just the latest in a series of security incidents targeting American diplomats in Libya over the past 18 months. Over the past several years, however, U.S.-Libyan relations have thawed following decades of icy relations between longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi and successive American presidents.

Here's a brief history of recent relations between Washington and Tripoli:

Aug. 6, 2012

Car carrying U.S. Embassy personnel attacked in what might have been an attempted carjacking.

May 2012

Chris Stevens returns to Tripoli as Ambassador. It's his third tour in Libya, where he first served as Deputy Chief of Mission from 2007-2009.

September 2011

U.S. sends diplomats, including Ambassador Gene Cretz, back to Tripoli. American flag raised on Sept. 22. They work out of a temporary workspace because the U.S. embassy was too badly damaged after the May 1 attack.

May 1, 2011

U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, along with the British and Italian embassies, is ransacked and burned by a mob protesting the NATO bombing campaign and the killing of Gadhafi's son Saif al-Arab

April 5, 2011

Chris Stevens arrives in Benghazi as liaison to the rebel leaders as the U.S. tries to determine their goals and composition

Feb. 25, 2011

U.S. shutters its embassy in Libya as the security situation deteriorates. Some embassy staff are evacuated by boat and aboard a charter flight from an airfield near downtown Tripoli

December 2010

Cretz departs Libya amid concerns over his safety after a spat with the Libyan government about comments in cables published by Wikileaks

January 2009

Gene Cretz becomes the first U.S. ambassador in Tripoli since 1972

May 31, 2006

U.S. and Libya agree to upgrade the U.S. Liaison Office in Tripoli to a full embassy, but no ambassador named

June 24, 2004

U.S. diplomatic presence upgraded to a Liaison Office

Feb. 8, 2004

Diplomatic relations between U.S. and Libya resume, U.S. Interest Section in Tripoli established after diplomatic breakthroughs convinced Gadhafi to give up his nuclear weapons program.

December 21, 1988

A bomb aboard Pan Am flight 103 brings the plane down over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Another 11 people were killed on the ground. Libya was eventually blamed for the attack.

April 15, 1986

The United States retaliates for the La Belle attack, bombing Gadhafi's compound outside Tripoli.

April 9, 1986

President Ronald Reagan calls Gadhafi the "mad dog of the Middle East" following the La Belle bombing.

April 5, 1986

A bomb exploded in the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, killing three people, including two American servicemen, and injuring dozens. Libya was eventually blamed for the attack

Dec. 2, 1979

Mob attacks U.S. embassy in Tripoli, prompting U.S. government to pull out its remaining staff


U.S. pulls its ambassador out of Libya.

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