By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 17 September:
Stopping short of claiming responsibility for Tuesday’s attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Al-Qaeda in the . . .[restrict]Arabia Peninsula (AQAP) has praised it as well as the attacks on American embassies in Egypt, Tunsisia and Yemen.
It has called on Muslims everywhere to attack US interests.
According to US-based SITE Intelligence Group which monitors terrorist organisations, Al-Qaeda has said that attack was in revenge for the killing of its number two by Libyans insensed at the depiction of Prophet Mohamed in an anti-Islam film.
Suspicion that Al-Qaeda may have been involved in the attack stems from the fact that the day before it happened, its leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri issued a video message on confirming the death of his deputy, Abu Yahya Al-Libi, in a US drone attack in Pakistan on 4 June and called for revenge.
Although the US is being extemely cautious in linking Al-Qaeda to the Benghazi attack — Washington’s UN Ambassador Susan Rice has said that it was probably the work of “individual clusters of extremists” — Libya takes a different view.
In his latest rounds of interviews, General National Congress (GNC) President Mohamad Magarief held to his conviction that the 11 September attack was “a planned attack, meticulously executed”. He has also said that it involved foreigners.
“There are non-Libyan actors present in Libya. They aim to carry out their own plans in our territory. We will not allow that Libyan territory be used to implement these plans”, he said.
Magarief did not specifying who these actors were but indicated that investigations could turn up a “link to Al-Qaeda”. Nonetheless he signalled that it was still too early to make definite claims.
Investigations carried out have led to the arrest of 50 suspects. On Saturday, 12 were said to have been arrested in addition to four other earlier in the day.
In Libya, it is widely believed that extremists used Tuesday’s demonstrations against the film to their tactical advantage and prepared attacks on US facilities to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11. This view is held by both Magariaf and Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur.
Ansar Al-Sharia (AAS), a militant Islamist group and the Libyan government’s prime suspects, claim they do not know who the perpetrators are, nor are they responsible for the violence that took the lives of four US personnel, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. AAS are quoted as saying “western intelligence agencies in Libya” should to be held responsible for attempting to undermine Islamic law in the country.