- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - To congressional Republicans, “Benghazi” is shorthand for incompetence and cover-up. Democrats hear it as the hollow sound of pointless investigations.

It is, in fact, a Mediterranean port city in Libya that was the site of an attack on an American diplomatic compound on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. That’s nearly all that U.S. politicians can agree on about Benghazi.

It’s been a political rallying cry since just weeks before President Barack Obama’s re-election in November 2012. With the launch of a new House investigation, Benghazi is shaping up as a byword of this fall’s midterm election and the presidential race in 2016, especially if former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the ballot.

The administration on Tuesday heralded its first arrest in the case: Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terror group Ansar al-Shariah in Libya, who was being held at an undisclosed location outside Libya.

A guide to the controversy:

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SETTING THE SCENE

The 2011 revolt that deposed and killed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with the help of NATO warships and planes, began in Benghazi. A year later, the city of 1 million remained chaotic, in the grip of heavily armed militias and Islamist militants, some with links to al-Qaida.

The temporary U.S. diplomatic mission, created to build ties and encourage stability and democracy, was struck by homemade bombs twice in the spring of 2012. British diplomats, the Red Cross and other Westerners were targeted that spring and summer.

Stevens, based in the capital city of Tripoli, chose to visit Benghazi on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when U.S. embassies around the world were on alert for terrorism.

In Egypt that day, a different sort of trouble struck, trouble that would spread to other Mideast cities over several days: Protesters angry about an anti-Muslim video made in America stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, clambering over the walls and setting flags on fire.

Hours later, the assault in Benghazi began.

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A FIERY ASSAULT AND FOUR DEATHS

The Benghazi attack came in three waves, spread over eight hours at two locations.

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