State Dept. misled on another Benghazi attack?

By Aaron Klein

benghazi-investigation
TEL AVIV – Did the State Department and White House hide information indicating a jihadist group promoting an Islamic state in Libya was responsible for a bomb attack on the U.S. special mission in Benghazi three months before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the same compound, which killed a U.S. ambassador?

Information contained in Pentagon documents released in response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit sheds light on who was responsible for a June 6, 2012, IED attack on the Benghazi special mission.

WND obtained and reviewed the newly declassified Benghazi documents, which for the first time publicly blame a group “promoting an Islamic state in Libya” for the IED attack.

Since the attack, the group, Ansar al-Sharia, has sworn allegiance to ISIS, which has established an Islamic “caliphate” in portions of Syria and Iraq that it intends to expand throughout the Middle East.

An arm of Ansar al-Sharia, the Martyrs of the February 17th Brigade, provided internal security at the U.S. Benghazi mission.

The IED attack took place June 6, 2012, causing no injuries but blowing a large hole in the compound’s exterior wall.

Despite the attack, the Obama administration took no significant steps to enhance security at the U.S. special mission.

Page 15 of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board report, or ARB, reported of the IED attack: “Omar Abdurrahman group makes an unsubstantiated claim of responsibility.”

Page 16 of the ARB relates the “June 6 IED at the SMC and the May ICRC attack were claimed by the same group,” referring to the Omar Abdurrahman Brigades.

The Egypt-centric Abdurrahman Brigades calls, among other things, for the release of the so-called “blind sheik,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, imprisoned in the U.S. after he was convicted for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Now documents released in response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit shed new light on intelligence possessed by the Pentagon regarding another group’s responsibility in the June IED attack on the U.S. Benghazi facility.

The information has been known since at least Sept. 12, 2012, yet was not included in the ARB explanation of who was behind the IED assault.

The Pentagon produced 486 pages in response to a federal court order in Judicial Watches’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit asking the Defense Department to release “any and all” records produced by the U.S. Africa Command Operations Center concerning the Benghazi attacks.

WND found one Pentagon document that states, “[On] September 12, 2012, the day after the attack, top Pentagon leadership received intelligence briefing slides reporting that a June 6, 2012, attack on the Benghazi Special Mission Compound was tied to a group promoting an Islamic state in Libya.”

According to the intelligence briefing, the IED attack “came in response to the 5 June [2012] drone strike on al-Qaida senior leader Abu-Yahya al-libi.”

The information was not contained in the State’s ARB.

Al-Qaida?

Immediately following the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, one of the most deadly members of the al-Qaida conglomerate, was the first al-Qaida member to comment.

AQAP released a statement claiming the attack on the U.S. mission and nearby CIA annex were revenge for the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, one of the most senior al-Qaida operatives.

AQAP did not directly claim responsibility for the Benghazi attack.

Libi, of Libyan descent, was believed to have been killed in Pakistan in June 2012.

Lost in the news coverage about the U.S. response to the Libya attacks was that one day before the attack, on Sept. 10, 2012, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video calling for attacks on Americans in Libya to avenge the death of Libi.

The 42-minute video announced the death of Libi. Released on a jihadi online forum less than 18 hours before the Benghazi attack, Zawahiri urged jihadists, and particularly those in Libya, to avenge the killing of Libi.

“His blood urges you and incites you to fight and kill the crusaders,” he said.

CNN previously quoted sources disclosing several Yemeni men belonging to AQAP took part in the Benghazi attack.

One senior U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that “three or four members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula” took part in the attack.

Another source quoted by CNN as being briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services “suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack.”

“But it’s not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose,” continued the CNN report.

Special mission guards?

While the newly declassified Pentagon document does not name a group responsible for the IED attack, the description of an organization “tied to a group promoting an Islamic state in Libya” could refer to Ansar al-Sharia.

The Martyrs of 17 February Brigade, which was hired by the State Department to protect the U.S. facility in Benghazi, operates under the Ansar al-Sharia banner.

WND previously reported a Library of Congress report that received almost no media attention detailed – one month before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack – how al-Qaida established a major base of operations in Libya in the aftermath of the U.S.-NATO campaign that deposed Gadhafi and his secular regime.

The report documented al-Qaida and affiliated organizations were establishing terrorist training camps and pushing Taliban-style Islamic law in Libya while the new, Western-backed Libyan government incorporated jihadists into its militias.

The document named Benghazi as a new central headquarters for al-Qaida activities.

The report shows how various al-Qaida groups, including Al-Qaida Senior Leadership (AQSL) and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have sought to take advantage of the downfall of Gadhafi to “create a safe haven and possibly to extend their area of operations to Libya.”

The report noted AQSL’s strategic goals remain “restoration of the caliphate, instituting sharia, and ending the Western presence in Muslim lands.”

“Al-Qaeda’s primary goal in Libya is to establish an Islamic emirate as part of its overall objective to reestablish the caliphate,” the report said.

“The al-Qaeda clandestine network in Libya is most likely espousing a Taliban-like religious orientation that calls for strict adherence to the practice and principles of Islam as interpreted by radical clerics.”

From June 7 to 8, 2012, there was a gathering of groups supporting Shariah openly held at Liberation Square in Benghazi. The event was hosted by Ansar al-Sharia and reportedly attended by at least 15 militias, including al-Qaida-affiliated organizations.

With additional research by Joshua Klein.

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