US media casts doubt on official Libya account

Reports suggest attack on US consulate in Benghazi preplanned, possibly by al-Qaida, led by former Guantanamo inmate.

September 20, 2012 18:24
2 minute read.
US Consulate in Benghazi in flames during protest

US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya in flames 370. (photo credit: reuters)


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American media on Thursday cast doubt on US President Barack Obama's official version of last week's assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed.

CBS News cited witnesses as saying that "there was never an anti-American protest outside the [US] consulate [in Benghazi]," and that the mission "came under planned attack."

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The report concluded that the new testimony "is in direct contradiction to the [Obama] administration's account of the incident" and therefore, "what's clear is that the public won't get a detailed account of what happened until after the election."

The CBS report followed other revelations Thursday that in the months leading up to his death Stephens expressed concerns that his safety was at risk, specifically pointing to the fact that his name was on an al-Qaida hit list.

According to CNN, citing a source close to the ambassador, prior to his death Stevens repeatedly mentioned the rise in Islamic extremism and al-Qaida's growing presence in Libya.

FOX News, citing US intelligence sources, claimed that al-Qaida was directly involved in the attack, alleging that former Guantanamo Bay inmate Sufyan Ben Qumu may have led the assault.

On Wednesday, in testimony given to the US Senate Homeland Security Committee, Director of the US National Counter-terrorism Center Matthew Olsen described the assault on the consulate as a "terrorist attack."

On Thursday, the White House reinforced Olsen's statements, saying it was "self-evident" that what happened in Benghazi was a "terrorist attack." However, no clarification as to whether the administration believed the attack was preplanned was forthcoming.

To date, the White House has maintained that the attack was spontaneous, resulting from the hijacking by extremists of a demonstration over the "Innocence of Muslims" film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.

As recently as Wednesday, press secretary Jay Carney said “based on what we know now and knew at the time, we have no evidence of a preplanned or premeditated attack.” On Sunday, US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the US “do[es] not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated."

Though the FBI has yet to arrive at the scene of the Benghazi consulate, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to give a classified account of what happened to a congressional committee.

Earlier this week, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif said the attack "was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival.”

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