Libya attack may have been planned and organized, U.S. officials say

WASHINGTON Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:52pm EDT

An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Esam Al-Fetori

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, may have been planned and organized in advance, U.S. government officials said on Wednesday.

The officials said there were indications that members of a militant faction calling itself Ansar al Sharia - which translates as Supporters of Islamic Law - may have been involved in organizing the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya's second-largest city.

They also said some reporting from the region suggested that members of Al-Qaeda's north Africa-based affiliate, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, may have been involved.

"It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack" and appeared to be preplanned, one U.S. official said.

The officials asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. More specific details about the possible role of militant groups or cells in the attack were not immediately available.

Later Wednesday, a U.S. official told Reuters that the U.S. military is moving two destroyers toward the Libyan coast, giving the Obama administration flexibility for any future action against Libyan targets.

The USS Laboon, which had been making a port call in Crete, could be in position within hours. The other destroyer, the USS McFaul, was a couple of days away, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Both ships were armed with Tomahawk missiles, which were used extensively by NATO against fallen Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's air defenses last year.

On the attack in Benghazi, one U.S. official noted that in the wake of the collapse of the government of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last year, Libyan government arsenals were looted, making small arms and more sophisticated weapons available both to potential militants and black marketeers.

Some U.S. officials cautioned against assuming that the Benghazi attack, or a similarly timed violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, were deliberately organized to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks carried out by al Qaeda in Washington and New York.

U.S. and European officials said that in contrast to the Benghazi attack, which some investigators say may have been calculated and organized, the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo appeared more likely to have been a spontaneous eruption by a mob.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and two other Americans who have not yet been identified were killed when gunmen stormed the consulate and another U.S. safe house in Benghazi on Tuesday.

A London think tank run by a former Libyan militant leader suggested on Tuesday that not only was the Benghazi attack "well planned," but that it may have been retaliation for an American drone attack that killed a Libyan leader of al Qaeda's core command group earlier this year.

The Quilliam Foundation said that 24 hours before the Benghazi incident, al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, distributed a video to militant websites in which he confirmed the death of his second in command, known as Abu Yahya al-Libi, and urged Libyans to avenge his killing.

Quilliam, whose president, Noman Benotman, once was a leader of an anti-Gaddafi militant faction known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, said that according to its sources, up to 20 militants had prepared for a military assault.

Quilliam said the assault on the Benghazi Consulate took place in two waves. After the first wave, U.S. officials arranged an evacuation of the Consulate by Libyan security forces. As the evacuation was taking place, a second wave of attacks was launched against U.S. officials who had already been moved to a supposedly secure location, Quilliam said.

The Eurasia Group, a strategic consulting firm, said that it also believed that "the attack on the consulate was an orchestrated response by an organized Salafist (ultra-orthodox Muslim) group."

(Additional reporting by William MacLean in London and Tabassum Zakaria and Phil Stewart in Washington. Editing by Warren Strobel and Stacey Joyce)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
AlanBeasley wrote:
FLASHBACK 1998: Last time a U.S. Embassy was vaporized – hundreds died

Clinton told Americans: don’t worry about Osama bin Laden and his small group of radicals

Clinton’s response: cut defense spending and apologise (and appeared on Letterman 3 days later)

Eerily similar …

Romney needs to be ready -

Obama was warned in 2009 – He was told to support uprisings in Iran/Syria (enemies).
And DO NOT support those in Egypt, Libya, Somalia (friendlier)

This is so similar to the situation that we were in back in the 1990s Clinton also ignored Americans being slaughtered overseas during his 2nd term! So many died and Clinton “examined the situation”

Clinton got on TV and told Americans not to worry about bin Laden.
191 days after Clinton left office the 9/11 attacks occurred – (3x postponed per the 911 Commission)

Clinton’s response to bin Laden in 1998 – cut defense spending!

Romney needs to be ready -

Now Obama is doing what Clinton did and America was vulnerable for it!

Sep 12, 2012 10:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
PenRumi wrote:
There is a connection between disparate elements in distant places who are involved in the attack on US Consulate in Libya: Death of al-Qaeda leader Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan, Haqqani network, al-Zawahiri, and Salafists in Libya. The Haqqanis, who are Pushtoons, are Salafists like the Taliban.

The drone attacks by the US have become increasingly successful in taking out al-Qaeda leaders, extremists, and Taliban militants based in North Wazirstan in Pakistan, who are now taking retaliatory actions against US diplomatic personnel posted abroad. The latest was the September 3 attack on a consulate vehicle in Peshawar, Pakistan that killed two, and injured 19 including two Americans.

Sep 12, 2012 10:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Unfortunately it’s a war of cultures, and right wing politicians are to blame squarely for this. This does not look as if it’s going to end in the near future, new terrorist hot pots seems to be flaring up and how long can US and it’s allies be able to contain this is a big question. Financially draining on all economies some already on the brink of state bunkruptcy. I think it is the resentment of moslems towards israel and the american carte blanche given to israel.
There needs to be a new “mesiah” politician that can bring peace to this world.

Sep 12, 2012 11:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus