Showdown in Libya Between Opposition and Islamist Militias

 

Libyan militias travel in a convoy toward oil ports. (Photo: © Reuters)

Libyan militias travel in a convoy toward oil ports. (Photo: © Reuters)

Brotherhood victories in the Arab Spring have triggered a backlash against Islamist rule. Now the Libyan people are joining that revolt.

BY RYAN MAURO:

The Libyan population, fed up with radical militias and an Islamist-led parliament, are supporting a counter-revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists. It began with the launch of “Operation Dignity” by General Khalifa Hifter and it sparked the scheduling of new elections on June 25.

Hifter and the secular opposition view the dysfunctional, Islamist-led parliament as being in league with radical militias and terrorists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Libyan branch, the Justice and Construction Party, lost the 2012 parliamentary elections in a landslide. However, it has brought independents over to its side, giving them a functional majority.

This unpopular interim parliament was supposed to expire in February, but it gave itself another year. The Islamist bloc thenchose Ahmed Matiq as Prime Minister on May 4, the third Prime Minister since Qaddafi’s fall, in a hotly contested vote.

Secularists argue that Matiq is illegitimate because he only won 113 votes in the initial session, seven short of what is required. After the session was officially adjourned, voting resumed and opponents argue that parliamentarians who were not present were illegally allowed to vote. More recently, the Islamist-led parliament voted in his cabinet.

The revolt is about much more than the performance of the interim parliament, though. It is part of a regional backlash against the Islamist movement, and it was triggered by the Libyan people who are fed up with instability caused by Islamic extremist militias and terrorists.

“There is one enemy and that is the Muslim Brotherhood, the malignant disease which is seeking to spread throughout the bones of the Arab world,” Hifter said.

When asked about whether he wants to eliminate the group entirely, he answered, “Yes…completely. I am not looking for reconciliation.”

Read more at Clarion Project

State Department designates 3 Ansar al Sharia organizations, leaders

By THOMAS JOSCELYN:

The US State Department announced today that it has added three chapters of Ansar al Sharia, as well as three of the groups’ leaders, to the government’s terrorist designation lists. Ansar al Sharia groups in Benghazi, Derna, and Tunisia were designated as foreign terrorist organizations, as well as specially designated global terrorist entities.

The three Ansar al Sharia leaders, Sufian Ben Qumu, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, and Seifallah Ben Hassine (a.k.a. Abu Iyad al Tunisi), were also added to the list of specially designated global terrorists.

Ben Qumu is described as “the leader” of Ansar al Sharia Derna, while Khattalah is “a senior leader” of Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi. Seifallah Ben Hassine is the founder of Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia.

The State Department says that Ansar al Sharia “is ideologically aligned with al Qaeda and tied to its affiliates, including AQIM” (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). The designation confirms The Long War Journal’s reporting on Ansar al Sharia Tunisia’s connections to the al Qaeda network.

Attacks on US Mission and Annex in Benghazi, US Embassy in Tunis

AQAP's tenth edition of Inspire magazine featured the September 2012 assaults on US diplomatic facilities.

AQAP’s tenth edition of Inspire magazine featured the September 2012 assaults on US diplomatic facilities.

All three Ansar al Sharia organizations were involved in assaults on US diplomatic facilities in September 2012.

The Ansar al Sharia groups in Derna and Benghazi were both “involved” in the “September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya,” the State designation said.

US intelligence officials have previously told The Long War Journal that some of Ben Qumu’s men took part in the Benghazi attack. The US government has reportedly issued a sealed indictment against Khattalah because of his alleged role in the assault.

Three days later, on Sept. 14, 2012, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia was “involved” in the “attack against the US Embassy and American school in Tunis, which put the lives of over one hundred United States employees in the Embassy at risk.”

The State Department previously reported on Ben Hassine’s role in the Sept. 14 attack in Tunis. In its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, published in May 2013, Foggy Bottom noted that Ben Hassine “was implicated as the mastermind behind the September 14 attack on the US Embassy,” which involved “a mob of 2,000 – 3,000″ people, “including individuals affiliated with the militant organization Ansar al Sharia.”

Al Qaeda has praised the September 2012 assaults on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Cairo, Sanaa, and Tunis. In November 2012, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri released an audio message praising the assaults as “defeats” for the US.

“They were defeated in Iraq and they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, and their ambassador in Benghazi was killed and the flags of their embassies were lowered in Cairo and Sanaa, and in their places were raised the flags of tawhid [monotheism] and jihad,” Zawahiri said in the message, which was translated the SITE Intelligence Group.

The 10th edition of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine celebrated the September 2012 attacks. The cover picture showed a black flag, similar to those used by al Qaeda-affiliated groups, being raised in front of one of the embassies. The feature article was titled, “We Are All Usama,” a reference to the chant heard in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere.

None of the suspected terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi or Tunis have been brought to justice. In its new designation, the State Department says the US government “is committed to taking all appropriate actions against the organizations and individuals responsible for the attacks against the US diplomatic facilities in Libya and Tunisia.”

Al Qaeda-tied biographies

Two of the three jihadists named in today’s designation, Sufian Ben Qumu and Seifallah Ben Hassine, have had strong ties to the al Qaeda network throughout their careers. Both have been previously profiled by The Long War Journal. [See, for example, LWJ reports Al Qaeda ally orchestrated assault on US Embassy in Tunis and Ex-Gitmo detainee reportedly tied to consulate attack.]

Read more at Long War Journal

The Gitmo Detainee the Times Just Denied Was in Benghazi . . . Was in Benghazi

Sufyan bin Qumu  (Image from defense.gov)

Sufyan bin Qumu (Image from defense.gov)

By Patrick Brennan:

U.S. officials have told the Washington Post that they believe that former Guantanamo Bay detainee and al-Qaeda-linked militant Abu Sufian bin Qumu was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya — a claim specifically denied in the New York Times’ report last week about the tragedy. Rumors have flown about bin Qumu’s involvement in the attack for a long time: Fox News reported the connection just a week after the attack in 2012, and 60 Minutes’ ridiculously thinly sourced report this winter about the attacks repeated the claim, though without any evidence of further sourcing. Back at the time of Fox’s original report, the Obama administration denied the connection, and this was reasonable enough — it honestly seemed like a few too many connections a little too quickly.

The group that we knew at the time had played a large part in the attack on the diplomatic facility is called Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi, and as the Times reported last week, it’s led by a man named Abu Khattala, who’s been indicted for the attack, and who professes a great deal of admiration for al-Qaeda but denies that he’s connected to the group. Meanwhile, there is a group of the same name, Ansar al Sharia, in Derna, a relatively nearby town, and that’s the militia led by bin Qumu.

So it’s understandable how the connection may have been made erroneously — but now we know it’s about as reliable as can be: Bin Qumu’s group is about to be listed as a terrorist organization by the United States for their role in the Benghazi attack. There’s a semi-understandable reason why Fox’s report seemed like a stretch back then, but doesn’t now: At the time, the consensus of observers was that the two Ansar al Sharias in eastern Libya were actually pretty much separate organizations, so one group’s involvement in the Benghazi attack didn’t imply the other’s. But as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ Tom Joscelyn explained to me last week, over the last year, it’s become increasingly clear this distinction was a false one, and the two probably are pretty much part of the same organization (he explains more about the issue at The Weekly Standard). It’s therefore unsurprising now to find out that the two groups were both somehow involved in perpetrating the attack — and that the al-Qaeda connections are undeniable.

Why is bin Qumu’s involvement important? Well, superficially, his links go straight to the heart of al-Qaeda — “core al-Qaeda,” the Arabs based in Afghanistan and Pakistan who perpetrated 9/11 and whose organization the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed to have effectively eliminated. Bin Qumu traveled to Afghanistan in the 1990s to train with bin Laden, fought the U.S. there in the 2000s, and then was captured and sent to Guantanamo Bay. When he was released from Guantanamo Bay, he was turned over to the Libyan government, who held him for a while and then released him (Qaddafi wasn’t a bad counterterrorism partner, but he wasn’t the best). And these connections could go further: The Post also reports that Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia will be listed as a terrorist group; some maintain that that group and al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate can all be closely connected to the operations in Libya. It also confirms that they would like to question a man named Faraj al Chalabi, whom they describe as “a Libyan extremist who may have fled the country” — but who may also be a direct connection between Libyan militias and al-Qaeda in Pakistan, as Tom Joscelyn explains this evening. That may suggest the terrorist networks that the Arab Spring has seen thrive in North Africa are stronger and more interconnected than thought.

Read more at National Review

Also see:

New York Times hailed Libyan terror leader behind Benghazi consulate attack as “U.S. ally, of sorts”

P. Poole tweet

Yes, Al-Qaeda ‘Infiltrated’ Libya

ben4by :

The New York Times’ conclusion that Al-Qaeda was not involved in last year’s attack on Ambassador Stevens in Libya—or even “infiltrated” Libya to begin with—is an example of a misleading game of semantics. The definition of “enemy” and even “Al-Qaeda” is becoming narrower and narrower, moving us closer to a more comforting (but incomplete) picture of the danger the West faces from Islamism.

The Times writes that an Islamist militia leader named Ahmed Abu Khattala is the almost certain culprit behind the Benghazi attacks, even if he denies it. This fact is used to deny Al-Qaeda’s role, along with the premise that there are two distinctly separate groups named Ansar al-Sharia and the one linked to Al-Qaeda cannot be implicated.

Khattala denies that he and his Obeida Ibn Al-Jarra militia are tied to Al-Qaeda. To the Times, the lack of an operational link is equivalent to no link at all, but the two are connected ideologically. Khattala is openly anti-American and approved of the Benghazi attacks. Both agree in violent retribution for mockery of their faith because of their common Sharia doctrine.

According to the Times’ own previous reporting, an Islamist group named Ansar al-Sharia is suspected of involvement. The Times confirms, “Witnesses at the scene of the attack identified many participants associated with Ansar al-Shariah.

Its leader, Mohammed Ali al-Zahawi, said he disagrees that Western diplomats in Libya are legitimate targets and, “If it had been our attack on the U.S. Consulate, we would have flattened it.”

There are two groups named Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, one in Benghazi that may share responsibility, and one in Derna, led by Sufian bin Qumu.

Qumu was once a driver for a company owned by Osama Bin Laden. He was captured in Pakistan and spent six years in Guantanamo Bay before returning to Derna. His Al-Qaeda links are solid, but the Times reports that his Ansar al-Sharia was uninvolved in the Benghazi attacks.

Thomas Joscelyn persuasively argues that this is not the case. The two have a common name, branding and propaganda publisher. The Times also fails to answer an important question: If the two groups are truly separate, why wouldn’t one avoid the confusion by changing its name?

Even the use of the name “Ansar al-Sharia” is rooted in Al-Qaeda. The name first appeared in Yemen as a front for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We know from Osama Bin Laden’s records that were captured in Pakistan that he planned to change Al-Qaeda’s name and wanted affiliates to portray themselves as wholly independent.

study by the American Federation of Scientists in August 2012, one month before the Benghazi attacks, confirmed that Al-Qaeda had a “core network” in Libya “but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the Al-Qaeda name.” It predicts that Al-Qaeda will continue to “mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement.”

Read more at Front Page

Q & A: “The Jihadist Plot” by John Rosenthal

By Diana West:

I will never forget the unmitigated horror of watching as the United States openly switched sides in the 2011 “Arab Spring,” abandoning allies in the war on terror (jihad) to support those same jihadist forces instead. There was precious little company in the press gallery on this one as US media, shouting slogans of “revolution” and “democracy,” blindly failed to perceive or actually covered up the obvious truth: The US, with NATO, was now supporting the Other Side — the same Other Side that had struck us in 9/11, killed and maimed our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threatened Western liberty everywhere. It was in this crazy atmosphere, John Rosenthal’s independent reporting from Europe provided essential information and context.

John’s long-awaited book, The Jihadist Plot: The Untold Story of Al-Qaeda and the Libyan Rebellion,  is now out from Encounter. It contains much new information on this shameful, perplexing, dangerous episode — whose jarring reverberations, by the way, have yet to play out.

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Here is our Q & A.

DW: Whose side is the United States on in Syria?

John Rosenthal: Objectively, we are on the same side as Jabhat al-Nusra in the Syrian conflict. The administration’s listing of Jabhat al-Nusra as a terror organization changes nothing in this regard and amounts in fact to a kind of sleight of hand. It allows the administration to claim that it is supporting
the Syrian rebellion, but somehow not its “extremist” component. But this distinction is completely bogus. The response to the listing from other rebel brigades — many of which hastened to express their solidarity with Jabhat al-Nusra — makes this clear. Jabhat al-Nusra is part of the
mainstream of the Syrian rebellion. If it is extremist, then so is the rebellion as such.

DW: You explain in your book that in mid-2011, the US changed sides in the so-called war on
terror, which was originally mounted as a war against Al Qaeda; and, moreover,
that the US media missed this story. Could you state the case in brief?

JR: The US changed sides in the “war on terror” during the 2011 Libya conflict
and it did so in two senses. In the first place, it did so by virtue of
forming an alliance with some of the very same Islamic extremist forces that
it had been combating for the previous decade. As I show in the book, the
military backbone of the rebellion against Muammar al-Qaddafi was formed by
cadres of the so-called Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The LIFG was
listed as an al-Qaeda-linked terror organization by both the US government
and the UN Security Council. It was, in effect, the Libyan chapter of
al-Qaeda and had a long shared history with the al-Qaeda “mothership” of
Osama bin Laden. Several of the leaders of the rebellion had in fact been
previously detained by US authorities, either during the invasion of
Afghanistan or in subsequent covert counter-terror operations. In the Libyan
war, the US and its NATO allies were providing air support to troops led by
these very same people.

The second sense in which the US changed sides in the “war on terror”
concerns terror itself as a tactic. I know you are not a fan of the
expression “war on terror” and I agree, of course, that it is very
problematic. But, as I say in the book, the expression at least had the
advantage of making clear that the US abhorred terror as a tactic,
regardless of the ideological background of the groups employing this
tactic. But from the very first weeks of the Libyan rebellion — well before
it was possible to know just who the rebels were — there was already
abundant evidence that the rebels were employing terrorist tactics. This
evidence included videos documenting torture, the summary execution of
detainees, and at least one beheading — a beheading that was particularly
horrific by virtue of the fact that it occurred in public in front of a
cheering crowd.

It would have previously been impossible to imagine the US making common
cause with groups that decapitate their perceived enemies. In the meanwhile,
in Syria, it has become the new normal, and apparently no one is shocked
anymore to hear about Syrian rebel forces that behead Syrian soldiers or
real or perceived supporters of Bashar al-Assad. During the Libyan war,
however, the media — including both old and new media — for the most part
simply ignored the evidence of rebel atrocities. What I heard at the time
was that it was not possible to “verify” the videos. But the fact is that
they made no effort to verify them. Moreover, media like CNN had no problem
broadcasting “unverified” videos that allegedly documented atrocities
committed by pro-Qaddafi forces. Those videos, by the way, almost surely
showed atrocities that were likewise committed by the rebels.

Similarly, at least until the rebellion triumphed, the American media either
ignored or hushed up the al-Qaeda connections of the rebel leadership. They
did so even though one rebel commander, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, was happily
holding forth to European reporters about his jihadist past in Afghanistan
and his support for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

DW: Switching sides required other core trade-offs as well. One point you make that underscores the disavowal of Western values that took place in the Libya War concerns the leading role played by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen. You called Rasmussen’s role the greatest irony of the whole war. Could you elaborate?

JR: Before he was appointed as NATO Secretary General, Rasmussen was undoubtedly best known internationally for his role in the famous “Mohammed cartoon” controversy. The cartoons were, of course, first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. At the time, Rasmussen was the Danish prime minister. When, in October 2005, representatives from several Muslim countries appealed to him to do something about the publication of the cartoons, he stated that he did not have the power to do anything about them and he did not want any such power. It must be said that not all Western leaders were as unequivocal in their defense of freedom of expression. Rasmussen and Denmark thus drew the wrath of radical Muslim clerics like none other Yusef al Qaradawi and the wrath of those Muslim masses that followed Qaradawi’s injunction to “rage” against the cartoons.

What most people do not know, however, is that the unrest that broke out in Libya in early 2011 had one of its main roots in just such a protest against the “Mohammed cartoons.” The protests that sparked the Libyan rebellion were called for February 17, 2011, which is why the rebellion is commonly known as the “February 17 Revolution.” But the 2011 protests were called to commemorate protests that occurred in Benghazi five years earlier, on February 17, 2006, and the object of the earlier protests was precisely the “Mohammed cartoons.”  More specifically, the 2006 Benghazi protestors were enraged about a member of the Italian government, Roberto Calderoli, who had appeared on Italian public television wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon of Mohammed printed on it. If albeit made in more flamboyant fashion, Calderoli’s point was the same as Rasmussen’s: that freedom of expression is non-negotiable. Thousands of young men descended upon the Italian consulate in Benghazi, attempting to break into the building and setting it on fire. Eventually, the Libyan security forces at the consulate opened fire in order to protect the Italian diplomatic personnel inside. A reported eleven people were killed.

In 2011, Rasmussen as NATO chief would facilitate the triumph of a rebellion whose fundamental values are absolutely antithetical to the values that he defended in 2005 as Danish prime minister. At some level, I imagine he must know this. If no one else, his Italian colleagues will surely have told him about the background to the 2011 protests. It is really a remarkable case of an individual and his convictions being completely overwhelmed by the position he holds. Rasmussen is a kind of tragic figure.

DW: Who is Abu-Abdallah al-Sadiq?

JR: Abu-Abdallah al-Sadiq is the historical leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He was a confidante of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, he is reported to have been with Bin Laden at Tora Bora in late December 2001, as American and allied forces laid siege to the al-Qaeda leader’s mountain hideout. The LIFG ran its own jihadist training camps in Afghanistan prior to the American invasion. In 2004, al-Sadiq was detained in a covert American counter-terror operation in southeast Asia. He was subsequently repatriated to Libya and turned over to the custody of the Libyan government. In 2010, he was amnestied by the Libyan government as part of a terrorist “rehabilitation” program. I suspect that the American government encouraged Libya to “rehabilitate” al-Sadiq and other imprisoned LIFG members. We know, in any case, that the American ambassador was present at a ceremony “celebrating” his release.

The international public finally got to know al-Sadiq about a year and a half later, in August 2011, though under a different name. “Al-Sadiq” was a nom de guerre. Now he was known as Abdul-Hakim Belhadj and he was the new military governor of Tripoli. Intensive NATO bombing had forced Muammar al-Qaddafi and forces loyal to him to abandon the Libyan capital and had allowed rebel forces to walk in and seize control of the city. Al-Sadiq/Belhadj was the leader of those rebel forces. Just seven years after detaining him, America and its NATO allies, in effect, conquered Tripoli on al-Sadiq’s behalf.

There is much more at Diana West’s blog

 

Also see:

 

Ansar al Sharia Egypt founder ‘honored to be an extension of al Qaeda’

Ahmed Ashush, a high-profile jihadist who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and who has founded Ansar al Sharia Egypt. Image from Al Arabiya News.

Ahmed Ashush, a high-profile jihadist who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and who has founded Ansar al Sharia Egypt. Image from Al Arabiya News.

By Thomas Joscelyn

In an interview with the Cairo-based publication Al Shuruq al Jadid  in late October, Ahmed Ashush, the founder  of Ansar al Sharia Egypt, praised al Qaeda and defended the terrorist  organization against criticisms. Ashush also named Mohammed al Zawahiri, the  younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as one of the jihadist  leaders who remained true to his ideology during his time in prison.

The interviewer asked, “Does Egyptian Salafi-jihadism represent an extension  of the al Qaeda organization?”

Ashush first offered to “correct the view of the al Qaeda organization,”  according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Ashush  proceeded to call al Qaeda the “House of Honor,” the “Title of Glory,” and the  “Home of the Nation’s Dignity.”

“We must perpetuate [Osama] bin Laden whether alive or dead,” Ashush  continued. “If the revolutions of the Arab Spring were fair they would have  adopted bin Laden as the symbol of heroism and sacrifice.”

Ashush declared, “We are honored to be an extension of the al Qaeda  organization in its beliefs, principles, and concepts.”

The senior Egyptian jihadist went on to describe al Qaeda itself as an  “extension” of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which has long been headed by  Ayman al Zawahiri and merged with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group prior to the  Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Ashush named two EIJ leaders, Abu Ubaidah al  Banshiri and Abu Hafs al Masri, as co-founders of al Qaeda. Both served as al  Qaeda military chiefs prior to their demise.

Ashush’s embrace of al Qaeda is consistent with his past rhetoric and  behavior. Since his release from an Egyptian prison, Ashush has repeatedly  praised al Qaeda.

And Ayman al Zawahiri is so fond of Ashush that clips of the Ansar al Sharia  Egypt leader are frequently included in al Qaeda’s videos. A Sept. 10 video  starring Ayman al Zawahiri featured a clip of Ashush praising Osama bin Laden. A  two-part al Qaeda video released on Oct. 24 included nine video clips showing  Ashush and other Egyptian jihadists.

During his interview with Al Shuruq al Jadid, Ashush did not shy  away from al Qaeda’s terrorism.

Al Qaeda is “fighting a criminal enemy,” Ashush claimed, and only the  terrorist group has prevented Muslim countries from being divided “into  mini-States” ruled by “the Jews and the Christians.” The US has authored this  anti-Muslim conspiracy, according to Ashush. “Al Qaeda is the one that stopped  the American scheme aimed at splitting Egypt into four States and dividing all  Islamic countries.”

Ahush’s organization, Ansar al Sharia Egypt, is dedicated to implementing  sharia law and rebuilding the Islamic Caliphate. As he made clear during his  interview, Ashush is also deeply hostile to the West.

“We are at war with the United States and Israel and all the Worldly Rulers  whom they appointed in the countries of the Muslims to carry out their  imperialist blueprint in our countries,” Ashush said.

Ashush has used the name “Salafi Vanguard” to describe his efforts and those  of his compatriots. Ashush described the group as part of the jihadist  “current,” explaining that they chose this name to prevent any jihadist who has  renounced his ideology from speaking for them.

“Those who speak in the name of the current are those who remained firm and  did not change inside prison,” Ashush said. “Sheikh Mohammed al Zawahiri is  among them.”

Read more at the Long War Journal

 

Was Benghazi Attack on U.S. Consulate an Inside Job?

By Jamie Dettmer:

One man gives his harrowing account of the attack on the U.S. Ambassador.

The sun had risen over a hazy Benghazi about an hour earlier, and as he grabbed the wheel of his militia’s beaten-up white Toyota pickup, 42-year-old Ibn Febrayir (not his real name) groused to himself that this was no way to treat an ambassador, especially U.S. envoy Christopher Stevens. He had heard war tales about the lanky, good-natured Californian. How he had ventured to the shifting front lines during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and during lulls shared the rebels’ impromptu meals, ready to swap jokes and flash a winning smile, even when regime forces were mounting a counter-offensive.

Gianluigi/ Guercia AFP-Getty Images

Febrayir was dog-tired. His wife had been calling him incessantly all night and he hadn’t answered. Earlier he’d led an unsuccessful relief effort on the U.S. consulate after Salafist militants had launched an assault on the mission on the night of Sept. 11—but with his detachment being fired on, and the roads around the consulate blocked, he hadn’t been able to reach it in time. Later he had met eight U.S. Marines at Benghazi’s airport and accompanied them with a ragtag force of about 30 fighters to the so-called annex, the CIA compound, where an assortment of Americans—diplomats, guards, and intelligence officers—were waiting impatiently to be evacuated. He had been shot at and, he suspected, betrayed. He was in no mood for any more surprises. He tugged at his closely cropped beard.

As he drove through the gates of the Benghazi Medical Center, he looked in his mirror to check on the two men in the back. He’d ordered them to sit on either side of the ambassador to keep the body on a plastic stretcher from sliding off the short flatbed. “This is no way to treat an ambassador,” he muttered again. And then he drove at high speed toward the airport through a Benghazi that was slowly waking from the nighttime mayhem.

The story of the night America lost its first ambassador since 1979 to violence is like a jigsaw puzzle—the pieces are fitting together slowly and the picture is emerging but is still not complete and might not be for months. In trying to figure out the puzzle, U.S. investigators are not being helped by the lack of reliable information coming from Tripoli. The inquiry that Libyan leaders promised the day after the attack has stalled. Who’s in charge? No one really knows. “That’s a million-dollar question,” admits an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushugar. Accompanied by aides, he turns and asks them who’s now formally heading the probe. Debate ensues and it is hazarded that the attorney general might be in charge.

An adviser to Mohamed al-Magarief, the president of the General National Congress, the country’s parliament, concedes nothing much is happening with the inquiry and acknowledges that American officials in Washington, D.C., are frustrated by the lack of progress. “In some ways and at some level, they are understanding, but it isn’t a good answer to give them. They can see our difficulties—we don’t have the organization or the authority to push the inquiry,” he says. “But they are under pressure themselves—especially with the election days away.”

The election tick-tock unnerves Libyan leaders. They worry that President Barack Obama may do something precipitous, especially if his poll numbers drop. They worry about a drone strike on targets in eastern Libya—that would be a gift to jihadists, they say. Do the Americans have targets? Magarief’s adviser thinks they may—though he doesn’t know whether they would include the masterminds behind the attack on Stevens. “They had surveillance drones monitoring that night. They will have identified some people and traced where they are now.” And, of course, the information on jihadists and militants in Libya being gathered by more than a dozen intelligence agents and contractors in the CIA compound before Sept. 11 is likely also to be useful in the hunt.

When one tries to piece together the story of what happened in Benghazi, discrepancies stand out. For one thing, the timing of events given by officials in Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi don’t quite match. The State Department timeline is at variance with the recollection of Libyans manning the Benghazi combined operations room, a coordinating center between the various revolutionary militias “approved” by the government, located a 10-minute drive from the U.S. consulate. The Libyans have the attack starting between 8:30 and 9 p.m. The Americans place it at about 9:40 p.m. The Libyans have the American security guards fleeing the consulate with the body of Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed that night, in an armored SUV 45 minutes to an hour earlier than the Americans do, at around 10 p.m.

There are other inconsistencies, one especially bewildering. The State Department says a six-man Rapid Reaction Force was dispatched from the CIA compound, 1.2 miles away from the consulate, as the assault on the mission unfolded. Militia commanders in the Benghazi operations room that night—housed in the barracks of the Feb. 17 militia on the Tripoli Road, a former army installation that had a grim Gaddafi-era reputation—say they have no knowledge of such a force being present at the consulate.

Read more at the Daily Beast

Jamie Dettmer is an independent foreign correspondent who has been a staff journalist for The Times of London, The Sunday Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday, and the Irish Sunday Tribune.

Obama’s Jihad Alliance

The flag of Ansar al-Sharia, which reportedly led the Benghazi attack

 The flag of Libya Shield, which reportedly provided security to US Marines in
Benghazi.

By Diana West:

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column addressing the national scandal that investigation into the security failures and lies surrounding Benghazi-gate must also expose. This even larger scandal concerns the fact that throughout the revolutionary cycle known as Arab Spring, the Obama administration threw in Uncle Sam’s lot with the bad guys – the “rebels,” the “martyrs,” the Muslim Brothers, the whole jihad-happy and Shariah-ruling crew in Libya and the wider Middle East. In so doing, Uncle Sam, more or less, crossed to the “other side.”

We are continuing this same treacherous policy in Syria, something I hope Mitt Romney (as president, I also hope) comes to understand quickly. In Libya, Obama’s Arab Spring policy – supported by U.N.-niks, Republicans and media alike – meant making common cause with al-Qaida forces and other jihadists, including Libyan veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who fought and killed Americans. It was if the whole world had gone mad.

Take the Libya Shield Brigade, an eastern Libyan militia aligned with the Libyan government. Libya Shield members met the eight U.S. Marines who arrived in Benghazi from Tripoli in the wee hours of Sept. 12, 2012. Libya Shield escorted our Marines to the secret annex – relying on GPS coordinates the Marines brought with them – where the survivors of the consulate attack had successfully taken cover. This annex did not come under mortar attack until soon after Libya Shield and the Marines arrived. Coincidence? It was in this barrage, by the way, that ex-SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.

John Rosenthal has reported at WND.com that the Libya Shield Brigade fought in the anti-Gadhafi revolution – which Uncle Sam, of course, supported – under the black flag of al-Qaida. Rosenthal further notes that in October 2011, Libya Shield’s leader, Wissam Bin Hamid, issued a statement to Arabic jihadist websites stating: “The Islamic Shariah is a red line, we will not cede one rule of it, and Islam is the only law-giver and not (merely) the foundation (of the law).”

Bin Hamid, not at all incidentally, is also described on an online jihadist forum as a veteran of jihad in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what I mean by Libyan “allies” who have fought and killed Americans from the other side. Now, they’re escorting Marines to secret American annexes, and doing so as a matter of Obama administration policy.

This is a crucial piece of the Benghazi story. The U.S. wasn’t relying on Libya Shield and, as I’ve written before, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade in some ad hoc security arrangement. This is all part of continuing Arab Spring policy.

A U.S. embassy cable made public by congressional investigators makes this patently clear. While requesting more security on March 28, 2012, Eric Nordstrom, then U.S. regional security officer in Libya, notes that “rebuilding and expanding” the “local” guard force is one of his “core objectives.” This objective directly relates to what he describes as the State Department’s recommendation for “developing plans to transition our security staffing … to (a model) that incorporates more locally based and nonemergency assets.”

Naturally, these “plans” weren’t working. Hence, Nordstrom’s request for more American security. And hence the denial from State for reasons, Nordstrom told Congress this month, that came down to the fact “there was going to be too much political cost.” It is these “politics” – this Obama policy of outreach to jihadists – that must be exposed and stopped.

The final diplomatic cable to go out under the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ name is dated Sept. 11, 2012. It recounts events of the previous week in Benghazi, including a Sept. 9 meeting between an unnamed U.S. diplomat and, whaddya know, Wissam Bin Hamid, commander of Libya Shield. A second Libya Shield commander, Muhammad al-Gharabi, was also present. During a fractious-sounding meeting, the Libyans declared their support for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate then running to become Libyan prime minister and threatened to withdraw security from the U.S. in Benghazi if another candidate won in upcoming elections.

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Diana West is the author of “The Death of the Grown-up: How America’s Arrested  Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization” and blogs at dianawest.net.

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