US, Libya differ on Benghazi accounts |

16 Sep

US, Libya differ on Benghazi accounts


September 17, 2012



THE United States and Libya have offered very different accounts about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that left the ambassador and three other Americans dead.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Tuesday’s assault began with a “spontaneous” protest over the anti-Islamic video, which led on from similar protests in Egypt, where the US embassy was stormed.

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice said.

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the consulate to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” she told ABC’s This Week program.

“And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons. And it then evolved from there.”

Libya’s parliamentary chief, Mohammed al-Megaryef, announcing the arrest of 50 suspects, said the assault was pre-planned by a group of extremists, mostly foreigners, backed up by a few local “affiliates and sympathisers”.

“The way these perpetrators acted, and moved … leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned, determined, pre-determined,” Megaryef, president of the Libyan National Congress, told CBS News.

“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago. And they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he added.

US authorities initially leaned more toward the clear-cut, pre-meditated, well-planned assault angle, citing the fact that the attack came on the anniversary of 9/11 and a mere coincidence in the date seemed unlikely.

But in recent days, they have insisted that journalists wait for the results of an ongoing FBI investigation and focused more on the protests resulting from events in Cairo and the widely condemned film.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French TV that the American ambassador died under “absolutely atrocious conditions”, suggesting details of this would come out soon.

Rice denied the suggestion that the United States seemed powerless to stop the anger spreading through the Muslim world at symbols of US influence, such as diplomatic missions, businesses and fast food restaurants.

She said the flare-up in the Middle East, North Africa and some Asian countries was a one-off event triggered by the amateurish movie lampooning the Prophet Mohammed and not due to waning US popularity in the Muslim world.

Rice called it a “direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated, that the US government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear is reprehensible and disgusting”.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has said in a statement the attack was in revenge for the killing of the terrorist network’s deputy leader Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi in a drone strike in June.

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