Tripoli, . . .[restrict]27 September:
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has suggested the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was linked to the Al-Qaeda network across the Islamic Maghreb, according to a report by the New York Times.
Speaking at a high-level United Nations meeting of the Security Council on Peace and Security in the Middle East, Clinton said: “Now with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to manoeuvre, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.”
She added that terrorists “are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”
This is the second indication that the US government now supports the widely-held belief that the attack was the work of Islamist extremists.
The Obama government has been curiously loathe to admit that the attack on 11 September was a pre-planned terrorist act rather than the spontaneous outcome of protests against the trailer for a low-budget anti-Islam film.
Yesterday ABC news reported that Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, confirmed that the attack was believed to be the work of terrorists. “It is our view as an administration, the president’s view, that it was a terrorist attack,” he said.
At the United Nations meeting Clinton said the US was “stepping up counterterrorism efforts across the Maghreb and the Sahel.”
She added: “We’re working with the Libyan government and other partners to find those responsible for the attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi and bring them to justice.”
It is widely-accepted in Libya that Islamist extremists were responsible for the attack.
Initially the finger was pointed at the group Ansar Al-Sharia, who denied responsibility, but there have increasingly been suggestions that Al-Qaeda had some involvement.
Another group, the Omar Abdel Rahman brigade claimed responsibility for a previous attack on the US consulate in June, in which no-one was injured. The group said of this earlier assault, that it was in retaliation for the assassination of the Libyan Al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahah Al-Libi by a US drone strike in Pakistan.
A seven-page journal found in the rubble of the US consulate in Benghazi revealed that before his death Chris Stevens believed his name was on an Al-Qaeda hit-list and expressed his concern about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and the rise of Islamic extremism in the country.
The journal entries raised serious questions about America’s protection of its envoys abroad. [/restrict]