News / Middle East

    Lawmakers to Probe Attack on US Compound in Benghazi

    Suzanne Presto
    The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed hearing Thursday to review the events surrounding the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.  Lawmakers say they want to review intelligence capabilities in the region, as well as the level of security at U.S. compounds.

    Four Americans were killed in the assault: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and military veterans Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith.

    "The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack," said President Barack Obama in a televised address the following morning.  "We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats."

    Militants staged the assault on the 11th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack the United States has ever known.

    Spontaneous or Planned?

    A few days later, Libya's interim president, Mohamed Magariaf, suggested al-Qaida was responsible.

    Mr. Magariaf said the attack yielded "concrete evidence" about "who the attackers are, the way they attack, what kind of weapons they used."  He added that "all this indicates clearly that the attackers are well trained and well prepared and have planned this in advance."

    That description contrasted sharply with comments made the same day by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  She appeared on a number of talk shows and described the attack as "a spontaneous reaction" to a protest hours earlier outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  The protest in Cairo was apparently in response to an obscure anti-Islamic video on the Internet.

    "We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy, or to the consulate rather, to replicate this sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo," said Rice on ABC television's This Week program.  "And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists."

    Ambassador Rice says the intelligence community provided her with that now-discredited explanation.

    Suggestions of Spin

    But some Republicans suggested political maneuvering ahead of the presidential election.  

    "The Mideast is falling apart and they're trying to spin what happened in Libya because the truth of the matter is al-Qaida is alive and well and counterattacking," said Senator Lindsey Graham when he appeared on the CBS television program, Face the Nation.

    Mitt Romney, who ran for president against President Obama, raised the issue in one of his debates with the president.

    "And there was no demonstration involved.  It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people," said Romney, as he debated Mr. Obama.  "Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn't know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration.  How could we have not known?"

    In late October, the Reuters news agency reported that an official email showed that the White House and State Department were advised hours after the assault that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit on Facebook.   

    "Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence, and I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters the following day.

    Security  

    The level of security at the Benghazi mission is another contentious issue.

    Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, who worked with embassy security in Libya earlier this year, testified before lawmakers last month about the worsening security situation.

    "Militias appeared to be disintegrating into organizations resembling freelance criminal operations.  Targeted attacks against Westerners were on the increase," Wood described.  "In June, the ambassador received a threat on Facebook with a public announcement that he liked to run around the embassy compound in Tripoli."

    Wood said the regional security officer tried to obtain additional personnel, but diplomatic security remained weak.  The State Department rebuffed requests to extend the missions of security teams that had been protecting diplomats in the country.  

    The U.S. Department of Defense released a timeline last week that indicates Pentagon leaders knew of the attack in Benghazi an hour after it began, but they were unable to mobilize reinforcements based in Europe in time to prevent the killings.  

    The State Department says an independent Accountability Review Board is now examining the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack and its report might be ready by mid-December.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.