NEW YORK – An Egyptian security official speaking to WND today said there is information about large-scale infiltration by al-Qaida and its affiliated Jihadia Salafiya groups within the Libyan security apparatus.
The claim comes amid speculation about how Islamists who targeted the U.S. mission in Libya seemed to have inside information about the movement of the American diplomats in the country as well as the location of a supposedly secret U.S. safehouse in Libya.
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya came in two phases. The first phase saw a mob arrive at the one-story villa that serves as the consulate, with heavily armed men later coming to the scene with armored vehicles and rocket-propelled grenades. Ambassador Chris Stevens and another American were killed in the initial attack.
Libyan security forces then evacuated the consulate staff to a supposedly secret safehouse located about a mile away. Hours later, a second assault targeted the safe house, killing two Americans and wounding a number of Libyans and Americans.
U.S. backing Islamic groups behind Libya, Egypt attacks?
The claim of al-Qaida infiltration of Libyan security forces comes after WND documented earlier this week how the U.S. supported Libyan rebels amid widespread reports that al-Qaida groups were incorporated in the rebel ranks.
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya is being widely blamed on al-Qaida-linked groups.
One witness to the mob scene in Libya said some of the gunmen attacking the U.S. installation had identified themselves as members of Ansar al-Shariah, which represents al-Qaida in Yemen and Libya.
The al-Qaida offshoot released a statement denying its members were behind the deadly attack, but a man identified as a leader of the Ansar brigade told Al Jazeera the group indeed took part in the Benghazi attack.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the attack in Libya on a “small and savage group,” not the government or people of Libya.
In Egypt, demonstrators earlier this week tore down the American flag outside Cairo’s U.S. embassy and burned it reportedly in protest of a film that depicts the Islamic figure Muhammad in a negative way
According to reports, the crowd of around 2,000 protesters outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo consisted of a mixture of Islamists and teenage soccer fans known for fighting police. The protesters reportedly played a part in the U.S.-supported revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime last year.
The revolt was successful largely after President Obama called for Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally in the region, to step down.
However, questions remain about the nature of U.S. support for the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, including reports the U.S.-aided rebels that toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya consisted of al-Qaida and jihad groups. The U.S. provided direct assistance, including weapons and finances, to the Libyan rebels.
Similarly, the Obama administration is currently aiding the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria amid widespread reports that al-Qaida jihadists are included in the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.
During the revolution against Gadhafi’s regime, the U.S. admitted to directly arming the rebel groups.
At the time, rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admitted in an interview that a significant number of the Libyan rebels were al-Qaida fighters, many of whom had fought U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaida are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”
Adm. James Stavridis, NATO supreme commander for Europe, admitted Libya’s rebel force may include al-Qaida: “We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaida, Hezbollah.”
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel went even further, telling the Hindustan Times: “There is no question that al-Qaida’s Libyan franchise, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition. It has always been Gadhafi’s biggest enemy and its stronghold is Benghazi. What is unclear is how much of the opposition is al-Qaida/Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – 2 percent or 80 percent.”
In Syria, meanwhile, the U.S. may be currently supporting al-Qaida and other jihadists fighting with the rebels targeting Assad’s regime.
Last month, WND quoted a senior Syrian source claiming at least 500 hardcore mujahedeen from Afghanistan, many of whom were spearheading efforts to fight the U.S. there, have been killed in clashes with Syrian forces last month.
Also last month, WND reported that Jihadiya Salafia in the Gaza Strip, a group that represents al-Qaida in the coastal territory, had declared three days of mourning for its own jihadists who died in Syria in recent weeks.
There have been widespread reports of al-Qaida among the Syrian rebels, including in reports by Reuters and the New York Times.
WND reported in May there is growing collaboration between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaida as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq, according to an Egyptian security official.
The military official told WND that Egypt has reports of collaboration between the Syrian opposition and three al-Qaida arms, including one the operates in Libya:
- Jund al-Sham, which is made up of al-Qaida militants who are Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese;
- Jund al-Islam, which in recent years merged with Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group of Sunni Iraqis operating under the al-Qaida banner and operating in Yemen and Libya;
- Jund Ansar al-Allah, an al-Qaida group based in Gaza linked to Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria.
U.S. officials have stated the White House is providing nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels while widespread reports have claimed the U.S. has been working with Arab countries to ensure the opposition in Syria is well armed.