A leading U.S. newspaper says American intelligence efforts in Libya that fixated on al-Qaida likely contributed to the killing of the American ambassador to Libya in 2012.
The New York Times reported Saturday it could not find any evidence, after months of investigation, that al-Qaida or any other international terrorist groups had any role in the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The newspaper said the "fixation" on al-Qaida possibly distracted intelligence experts from "more imminent threats," including local anti-Western militia leaders such as Ahmed Abu Khattala, and the angry reaction to an American-made video denigrating Islam.
The New York Times said the leaders of the attack were fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.
The report by Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick is based on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack in which angry mobs killed the four Americans.
In the immediate aftermath, the Obama administration said the deaths were the result of an anti-West demonstration that got out of control. But the Obama administration came under harsh criticism from Republicans in Congress for its alleged failure to detect and prevent the attack, which the Republicans believed was planned by al-Qaida to mark the anniversary of its strike against the United States on September 11, 2001. Many Republicans especially blamed then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton.