Terrorists killed U.S. ambassador to Libya: Panetta

WASHINGTON Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:26pm EDT

The remains of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in an attack in Libya are taken off a transport aircraft during a return of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, September 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The remains of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in an attack in Libya are taken off a transport aircraft during a return of remains ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, September 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Terrorists killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, but an ongoing investigation into the attack will have to determine which group was involved and whether it had links to al Qaeda, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday.

The assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi September 11 that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens "was a terrorist attack," Panetta told a news conference at the Pentagon.

"A group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack on the consulate and against our individuals. What terrorists were involved, I think, still remains to be determined by the investigation," he added.

Panetta's remarks came a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to link the Benghazi attack to militants with ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Stevens died of smoke inhalation when he was trapped alone inside the burning consulate in Benghazi after it was attacked by militants. Another diplomat, Sean Smith, and two U.S. security men were also killed.

Libyan Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur told a news conference in Tripoli on Thursday that the "investigation is under way, it is progressing," but added there was no "complete definite investigation to say who did this yet."

He said the Libyan and U.S. governments were closely cooperating on the investigation.

There was initial confusion about whether the attack had been planned in advance or was opportunistic, taking advantage of mob violence over an anti-Islam film made in the United States.

Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Pentagon news conference it took time before officials determined that extremists were behind the attack.

"As we determined the details of what took place there, and how that attack took place, ... it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack," Panetta said. "That's when I came to that conclusion."

Dempsey said he wasn't aware of any specific threat to the consulate before the attack.

He said intelligence reporting from eastern Libya indicated some militant groups were trying to work together, but "there wasn't anything specific and certainly not a specific threat to the consulate."

(Reporting by David Alexander and Phil Stewart in Washington and Ali Shuaib and Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Libya; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (3)
Curly wrote:
What took the administration so long to admit this when almost every others outlet was saying this the next day.
Or is there are evidence that has come to light that indicates the administration was knowing lying about from the first.

Sep 27, 2012 4:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
@Curly

Obama thinks he has a spotless record when it comes to terrorists. Democrats think that 9-11 was Bush’s fault, or Rice’s fault. It is something you want to prevent, but if it happens it is the perpetrators fault, not the President’s. Republicans and Democrats like to blame each other for these events, so now they are afraid to admit it happened. Obama has played the blame game so much, he can not be intellectually honest and address these situations. Romney would be no different.

Sep 27, 2012 5:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ccharles wrote:
Hey these countrys are riddled with terrorist and other forms of anarchy, its not the issue. The issue is that they took our embassy and killed our people…. Cut all diplomatic ties till they can act like an ally of America, and in libyas case… act like a sovern nation… Libya is the most puppeted goverment we have ever seen. They barely run what happens in the offices they reside in let alone what happens out side those buildings.

Sep 27, 2012 5:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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