WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Libyan leader Mohammed Magarief said on Sunday that about 50 people have been arrested in connection with the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week, which he said was planned by foreigners linked to al Qaeda.
The attack on Tuesday in Benghazi came amid protests over a video made in the United States that Muslims saw as blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad. It resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
Magarief, in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said some of those arrested were not Libyans and were linked to al Qaeda, the militant Muslim group that carried out the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Magarief, who became president of the national assembly after the bloody U.S.-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, described others as affiliates or sympathizers.
“It was definitely planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago and they were planning criminal acts since their arrival,” Magarief said, adding that some were from Mali and Algeria.
He said the security situation in Libya remained “difficult” for Americans, as well as for Libyans. The United States wants the FBI to investigate the consulate attack, but Magarief said it may be too soon to send in investigators.
“It may be better for them to stay away for a little while until we do what we have to do ourselves,” he said.
Magarief said there was little doubt the assault was planned rather than a spontaneous reaction to the video, citing the fact that it came on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“These ugly deeds, criminal deeds, directed against late Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues do not resemble in any way, in any sense, the aspirations, feelings of the Libyans toward the United States and its citizens,” he said.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Sunday talks shows that preliminary information indicated that the consulate attack was not planned.
“There’s no question, as we’ve seen in the past with things like ‘The Satanic Verses,’ with the cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad, there have been such things that have sparked outrage and anger and this has been the proximate cause of what we’ve seen,” she said.
(This version of the story corrects Magarief’s title)
Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by David Brunnstrom