Opinion

State Department puts terrorist designation on group that attacked Benghazi

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,September 11 Terrorist Attacks,Benghazi,Terrorism,State Department,al Qaeda,Libya

Two hours after the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack, U.S. government officials in Washington knew that a group called Ansar al Sharia in Libya had claimed responsibility for killing four Americans in Benghazi. Sixteen months later, the State Department made the terrorist designation official.

The State Department designated multiple groups that go by the name "Ansar al Sharia" as foreign terrorist organization.

"Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah have been involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya, and the September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya. Members of both organizations continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests in Libya. Ahmed Abu Khattalah is a senior leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and [Abu] Sufian bin Qumu is the leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah."

Bin Qumu, an ex-detainee at Guantanamo Bay, has al Qaeda ties. "A leaked Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment describes Bin Qumu as an 'associate' of Osama bin Laden," the Weekly Standard reported. "JTF-GTMO found that Bin Qumu worked as a driver for a company owned by bin Laden in the Sudan, fought alongside al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and maintained ties to several other well-known al Qaeda leaders. Bin Qumu's alias was found on the laptop of an al Qaeda operative responsible for overseeing the finances for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The information on the laptop indicated that Ben Qumu was an al Qaeda 'member receiving family support.' "

The Ansar al Sharia name cropped up in connection to the Benghazi assault almost immediately. "Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show," Reuters reported on Oct. 23, 2012. "Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film."

Reuters also noted that "U.S. intelligence officials have emphasized since shortly after the attack that early intelligence reporting about the attack was mixed."

The State Department designated another Ansar al Sharia as an alias of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula just weeks after the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

"AAS -- which is based in Yemen and is a separate entity from Ansar al-Shari'a in Libya -- was established to attract potential followers to shari'a rule in areas under the control of AQAP," the State Department announced on Oct. 4, 2012. "However, AAS is simply AQAP's effort to rebrand itself, with the aim of manipulating people to join AQAP's terrorist cause."

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