News / Middle East

New York Times: No Al-Qaida Role in 2012 Benghazi Killings

Burnt house, car inside U.S. embassy compound following overnight attack, Benghazi, Sept. 12, 2012.
Burnt house, car inside U.S. embassy compound following overnight attack, Benghazi, Sept. 12, 2012.
Kent Klein
An investigation by The New York Times newspaper has raised new questions about the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on September 11, 2012.
The Times says it spent months talking to Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the assault on the U.S. consulate there and the circumstances surrounding it. None of the sources produced any evidence that al-Qaida was behind the rampage in which the angry mob killed the four Americans — including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
In the immediate aftermath, the Obama administration said the deaths were the result of an anti-West demonstration that got out of control.
At the time, Muslims around the world were angered by a crude video made in the United States that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad, and some news media reports said that the attack was organized by an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group.

The Obama administration came under harsh criticism from Republicans in Congress for the alleged failure to detect and prevent the attack, with many placing blame directly on then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
The paper's new investigation adds fuel to the largely partisan debate in Washington about the Obama administration's response to the killings, saying the attack was led by local fighters who had benefited from NATO support during the uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
According to the paper, the assault was intensified in part by anger over the amateur video that was seen as insulting Islam. That finding appears to partially support a statement by then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, on a television talk show five days after the incident.
"We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people, came to the embassy ... to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo," she said in the 2012 television appearance. "And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists."
Some members of Congress, mostly opposition Republicans, charged that the assault was not a spontaneous reaction to the video, but a planned attack by terrorist groups, which was covered up by the White House.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain questioned Susan Rice about the incident in the days that followed, and said they were not satisfied with her answers.
The debate intensified in the weeks before the November 2012 presidential election. President Barack Obama was said to have been considering appointing Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in his second term, but as criticism mounted, Rice withdrew her name from consideration.
Meanwhile, Clinton responded angrily to tough questioning from senators about what happened in Benghazi.

Clinton: Benghazi Attack Part of Broader Terrorist Challenge in Africai
January 23, 2013 8:35 PM
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says last September's attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi was part of wider terrorist insecurity across North Africa. As VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Clinton testified before Congress Wednesday about what she is doing to prevent such an attack in the future.
CLICK TO EXPAND VIDEO - Clinton's Benghazi Testimony
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she told legislators. "Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again"
According to The Times investigation, threats from local militants have multiplied throughout the Middle East, and the focus on battling al-Qaida may be distracting the United States from protecting its interests.
The report was released hours after the State Department said the Libyan government released four U.S. military personnel it had briefly detained.
A State Department spokeswoman said the four had been taken into custody near Sabratha, where they were participating in "security preparedness efforts."
David Kirkpatrick's report says the central figure in the September 11 attack in Benghazi was anti-Gadhafi militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala.

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Comments page of 3
by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
December 31, 2013 8:03 AM
The US simply has nothing to offer here, just call it RIGMAROLE. Support more Rebels, get more of a similar payback! Use more NATO in conspiracies, expect more of these appreciation. The US feels it knows it all and gets it all... , do all the US actions prove it... ?

by: gsu33 from: usa
December 30, 2013 10:53 AM
Robert Grahm said what we all feel... all the rest of these comments are BS...

by: Constance Snougholoughogu from: D.C.
December 29, 2013 10:32 PM
Another main claim by the Times piece is that the Benghazi attack was largely not premeditated, although the article allows some aspects were loosely planned that day.

“Surveillance of the American compound appears to have been underway at least 12 hours before the assault started,” reported the Times. “The violence, though, also had spontaneous elements. Anger at the video motivated the initial attack.”

The Times claims, “Looters and arsonists, without any sign of a plan, were the ones who ravaged the compound after the initial attack, according to more than a dozen Libyan witnesses as well as many American officials who have viewed the footage from security cameras.”

That description doesn’t fit with the State ARB investigation into Benghazi.

The ARB described a well-orchestrated attack with militants who seemingly had specific knowledge of the compound. It doesn’t focus on looters but rather on “men armed with AK rifles” who “started to destroy the living room contents and then approached the safe area gate and started banging on it.”

In another detail bespeaking a plan, the ARB states the intruders smoked up Villa C, likely to make breathing so difficult that anyone inside the safe room where Ambassador Chris Stevens was holed up would need to come out.

It may be difficult for keen observers to swallow the Times’ claim of unplanned looters in light of events that demonstrated the attackers knew the location of the nearby CIA annex, or that they set up checkpoints, as they did, to ensure against the escape by Americans inside the Special Mission.

Fox News reported late Florida Rep. Bill Young said he spoke for 90 minutes with David Ubben, one of the security agents severely injured in the assault. Young said the agent revealed to him the intruders knew the exact location of Stevens’ safe room.

“He (Ubben) emphasized the fact that it was a very, very military type of operation [in that] they had knowledge of almost everything in the compound,” stated Young. “They knew where the gasoline was, they knew where the generators were, they knew where the safe room was, they knew more than they should have about that compound.”

by: Whistleblower from: D.C.
December 29, 2013 10:30 PM
The Times fails to report the anti-U.S. protest movement outside the Cairo embassy was a long-term project about freeing Rahman.

As far back as July 2012, Rahman’s son, Abdallah Abdel Rahman, threatened to organize a protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and detain the employees inside.

On the day of the Sept. 11, 2012, protests in Cairo, CNN’s Nic Robertson interviewed the son of Rahman, who described the protest as being about freeing his father. No Muhammad film was mentioned. A big banner calling for Rahman’s release can be seen as Robertson walked to the embassy protests.

The Times claim the Benghazi attack was fuelled by the anti-Muslim film also doesn’t jibe with an independent investigation that reportedly found no mention of the film on social media in Libya in the three days leading up to the attack.

A review of more than 4,000 postings was conducted by the leading social media monitoring firm Agincourt Solutions, reportedly finding the first reference to the film was not detected on social media until the day after the attack.

“From the data we have, it’s hard for us to reach the conclusion that the consulate attack was motivated by the movie. Nothing in the immediate picture – surrounding the attack in Libya – suggests that,” Jeff Chapman, chief executive with Agincourt Solutions, told Fox News.

The Times claim of popular protests about the Muhammad film further may not hold up to logic. The U.S. Special Mission was not a permanent facility, nor was its existence widely known by the public in Libya.

“Another key driver behind the weak security platform in Benghazi was the decision to treat Benghazi as a temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government, even though it was also a full-time office facility,” the report states.

Another main contention of the New York Times article on Benghazi is there was “no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”

However, the Times’ next statement in effect contradicts that claim. The Times relates, “The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi.”

Scores of news media reports documented those “fighters” included al-Qaida groups among their ranks. Many of those “fighters” were widely quoted in news media reports as fighting under the al-Qaida banner.

The Times further claims, “Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests.”

The report documented al-Qaida and affiliated organizations were establishing terrorist training camps and pushing Taliban-style Islamic law in Libya while the new, Western-backed Libyan government incorporated jihadists into its militias.

The document named Benghazi as a new central headquarters for al-Qaida activities.

“Al-Qaeda adherents in Libya used the 2011 Revolution to establish well-armed, well-trained, and combat-experienced militias,” stated the congressional report.

The report also said a terrorist released from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba became the leader of the al-Qaida-affiliate Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya, which espoused anti-Western ideology.

The Martyrs of 17 February Brigade, which was hired by the State Department to protect the U.S. facility in Benghazi, operates under the Ansar-Al-Sharia banner.

The document said scores of Islamic extremists were freed from Libyan prison after the U.S.-supported revolution in Libya.

The August 2012 document was prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under an inter-agency agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program.

by: Larry Linn from: Los Angeles
December 29, 2013 5:08 PM
The United States has over 90 Embassies and Consulates in the Mid-East and Africa. A small guerrilla force of 25 willing to go on a suicide mission, with AK-47's, RPG’s, and a few hand grenades, can take over all but a few of the Embassies and Consulates.

by: Tom from: CA
December 29, 2013 1:18 AM
Wish there was at least one news source I could actually believe.

by: Kazolias from: Paris
December 29, 2013 12:45 AM
There are a to of people around the world who hate the United States and are not al qaeda. Americans should ask themselves why this is rather than try to escape by saying it is always the same bad guys. In the eyes of most (yes, most) of the world's people, the US is the big bad guy.

by: CheckYourSource from: Springfield
December 28, 2013 10:38 PM
There absolutely were preliminary reports and even later reports from sources, mainly Libyans who were there and had knowledge of what took place that the anti-Islam video did play a role in the attack. According to at least three accounts the angry motivation which developed into the armed attack on the U.S. Mission at Benghazi was indeed, at least to some extent, precipitated by anger generated by the anti-Islam video. There are media reports available on the internet which have been available for months which contain this information. This does not mean there where not other influences which motivated the violent attack at Benghazi, it means there is the very real possibility that the anti-Islam video did play a role in helping to provide motivation for the attack.

Do you recall the extent of the protests the anti-Islam video sparked all across the Muslim world? There were Muslim protests in more than twenty-five cities in the Middle East and beyond. There was damage to the diplomatic missions of the western allies in at least five Middle Eastern cities. People all across the Middle East have radios, television and internet connections they knew what was occurring, they knew about the anti-Islam video and the demonstrations which were taking place across the Middle east.

What happened in Benghazi was likely, in part, a reaction to the anti-Islam video and it provided an opportunity to foment a terrorist attack, the anti-Islam video provided the impetus.

General Petraeus director of the CIA testified, early on, to the effect that the video did play a role in attack on the U.S. Benghazi Mission.

This is what General Petraeus said in his testimony: "At this point it looks as if there was a spontaneous situation that occurred and that as a result of that , the extreme groups, probably with a connection to al Qaeda took advantage of the situation and then the attack started."

by: Bruce Evans
December 28, 2013 10:22 PM
How can you doubt the New York Clinton Times. Have they ever been wrong or partisian? Of course not, more cover for the diversity afirmative action president.

by: mike from: Florida
December 28, 2013 10:17 PM
A ploy to free hillary
In Response

by: reporter1 from: us
December 30, 2013 3:00 PM
My first thought as well -- and it makes perfect sense.
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