Libyan fighters, not al-Qaeda, behind attack on Benghazi consulate: report

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 10:57am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 3:07am

The deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was led by fighters who benefited from Nato's support in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, and not al-Qaeda, according to the New York Times.

The paper, citing extensive interviews with Libyans with knowledge of the attack, said it found no evidence that al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups had a role in the attack that killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It said the September 11 assault was fuelled by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam, the argument made by US officials at the time.

On the day of the attack, US envoy David McFarland sent a cable to Washington under Stevens's name, describing a meeting with militia leaders in eastern Libya two days earlier. The meeting highlighted both "growing problems with security" and the fighters' desire for investment by American companies, according to the Times story.

Susan Rice, then US ambassador to the United Nations, said at the time the assault was a "spontaneous" protest against the anti-Islamic video that was "hijacked" by militants.

The Times said a central figure in the attack was Ahmed Abu Khattala. American officials briefed on the US criminal probe into the attack called him a prime suspect, it said.

The paper said Abu Khattala had "declared openly and often that he placed the United States not far behind Colonel Gaddafi on his list of infidel enemies".

It said Abu Khattala had "no known affiliations with terrorist groups, and he had escaped scrutiny from the 20-member CIA station in Benghazi".