Wednesday, October 24, 2012

US Has Identified One Of Benghazi Terrorists -- But Have No Access To Him

Fighters involved in the assault [in Benghazi], which was spearheaded by an Islamist brigade formed during last year’s uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, said in interviews during the battle that they were moved to attack the mission by anger over a 14-minute, American-made video that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, as a villainous, homosexual and child-molesting buffoon.
Libya Attack Brings Challenges for U.S., New York Times, September 12, 2012


At the moment of the terrorist attack, it was apparently not impossible to speak to those who were actually behind it -- maybe in part because those behind the terrorist attack were eager to give the impression that the attack was merely a response to the Muhammed video, an impression the Obama administration itself went to great lengths to perpetuate.

But since that time, how successful have the efforts been to track down and capture those behind the attack?
After all, it took weeks for the FBI to finally make its way to Benghazi, and even then they were only there for about 12 hours.

Complicating matters was the apparent inability of the US -- and even the Libyan government -- to get their hands on potential suspects, even after they conveniently identified themselves to reporters.

For example, last week the New York Times reported that Suspect in Libya Attack, in Plain Sight, Scoffs at U.S.:
Witnesses and the authorities have called Ahmed Abu Khattala one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission here. But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.

...Mr. Abu Khattala’s defiance — no authority has even questioned him about the attack, he said, and he has no plans to go into hiding — offered insight into the shadowy landscape of the self-formed militias that have come to constitute the only source of social order in Libya since the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Abu Khattala is linked to Ansar al-Shariah, though he refutes the story that he is the leader of the group and denies having ties to Al Qaeda. Instead, Abu Khattala admits to having been the of the Islamist brigade, Abu Obaida ibn al-Jarrah, which has disbanded -- with some of its members having joined Ansar al-Shariah.

In the end though, the questions about Abu Khattala may be academic, as Eli Lake reports that the US thinks it has located one of the terrorists that killed IS Ambassador Chris Stevens:
One of the first clues the intelligence community had about the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was when a Tunisian national posted an update on social media about the fighting shortly after it had begun.

The post from Ali Ani al-Harzi, who is now suspected of participating in the attacks, was what helped U.S. intelligence locate him and track him down after he fled Libya for Turkey, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the unfolding investigation.

These people say Turkish officials held al-Harzi for less than a week at the behest of the U.S. government, then sent him to Tunisia. There, he was kept in military custody until last week, when he was transferred to a jail in preparation for a court trial. It’s unclear what role he might have played in the attacks or what he might be charged with. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. intelligence community are working with Tunisian authorities, but there has been no deal yet on whether to send al-Harzi to the U.S. or keep him in Tunisia where he could be charged under the country’s own counterterrorism laws. The Tunisians have also not yet allowed U.S. officials direct access to the suspect.

Al-Harzi is a member of violent extremist networks in North Africa, one U.S. intelligence officer told The Daily Beast. This person added that he was also connected to jihadist organizations in the Middle East and was headed to Syria when he was detained in Turkey.
While Lake never mentions which group Al-Harzi belongs to, others do connect Al-Harzi with Ansar al-Sharia:
Saxby [Chambliss], the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Al-Harzi has been confirmed to be a member of Ansar al-Sharia, the Libyan group accused of carrying out the consulate attack.

But there is just one problem: here is Eli Lake discussing the story, starting at 3:50 in the video:



So according to Lake, the Tunisians have Al-Harzi and are prepared to put him on trial -- and in accordance with the agreement the US had with the previous Tunisian leadership, the US would have had access to him by now.

The problem is that there is no counter-terrorism agreement with the current Tunisian government.

Tie in this new development with Obama's need for an October surprise with only 2 weeks till the November election, and who knows what new developments may be in store.


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