Tag Archives: Benghazi

House Benghazi Committee Calls On Hillary Rodham Clinton To Testify

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, has called former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to testify next month, setting up a high-profile showdown over Clinton’s use of a private email account and server while she was secretary of state.

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina says he wants Clinton to testify the week of May 18 and again before June 18. The first hearing would focus on Clinton’s use of private emails; the second on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Gowdy’s action comes a day after the GOP-led panel signaled its final report could slip to next year, just months before the presidential election. Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate.

Libya’s new parliament calls for unity as rival militias clash

Smoke filled the sky over Tripoli on Sunday after rockets fired by one of Libya’s militias struck a tank in the main fuel depot.

Smoke filled the sky over Tripoli on Sunday after rockets fired by one of Libya’s militias struck a tank in the main fuel depot.

(Reuters) – Libya’s new parliament appealed for national unity at its first formal session on Monday as rival armed factions battled for dominance of a country struggling to hold itself together three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Hours before parliament met in the eastern city of Tobruk, heavy artillery and rocket fire bombarded southern and western Tripoli, where Islamist-leaning Misrata brigades have fought for three weeks with rival militias allied with the town of Zintan.

Lawmakers gathered in a heavily guarded hotel in Tobruk because three weeks of fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi had made Libya’s two main cities unsafe for the parliamentary session.

Western nations, which have mostly pulled their diplomats out of the North African country due to the fighting, hope that the new assembly can nudge the warring factions toward a ceasefire and negotiations to end a political deadlock.

Elected in June, the House of Representatives replaces the General National Congress (GNC) after a vote which, analysts said, eroded the political dominance that Islamist factions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood had in the legislature.

In a sign of Libya’s deepening polarization, the Islamist former GNC president and a group of current and ex-GNC lawmakers rejected the Tobruk session as unconstitutional, setting the stage for more political infighting.

“A swift transition from the GNC to the new parliament is vital because the country is in turmoil,” Azzedine al-Awami, the former deputy GNC chief, said at the first session.

“We hope all Libyans stand together to put our country’s best interests first.”

Justice Minister Saleh al-Marghani, standing in for the prime minister, who was attending a summit of African and U.S. leaders in Washington urged lawmakers to form a unity government.

Out of 188 elected lawmakers, 158 were sworn in during the session in Tobruk. They then elected Aguila Saleh Iissa as the House’s president. Saleh is seen as a jurist and had occupied many judicial positions during the time of Gaddafi.

DIVISIONS

The United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany quickly issued a joint call for parties to accept a ceasefire and a dialogue supported by the United Nations, and to recognize the authority of the parliament’s elected representatives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni during the summit in Washington, said it was a “critical time” for Libya.

“Libya’s challenges can really only be solved by Libyans themselves, but we are committed to stand by them as they engage in the difficult work of doing so,” Kerry said.

He said the United States was committed to returning diplomats to its embassy in Tripoli “as soon as the security situation allows.”

But, underscoring the divisions over the legitimacy of the new assembly, in Tripoli outgoing GNC President Nouri Abusahmain, an Islamist leader, rejected the Tobruk meeting because of the way it had been held and the location of the session.

It was not immediately clear how much support his statement would generate or its impact on armed factions allied with the Islamist political leadership. Most Islamist-leaning lawmakers and ex-GNC members had stayed away from Tobruk.

More than 200 people have been killed in the recent fighting in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi. Clashes have closed off most international flights, damaged Tripoli’s main airport and sent foreign diplomats and workers fleeing abroad.

The battle for the airport is part of a wider political struggle between two loose factions of ex-rebels and their political allies who once fought together against Gaddafi, but whose rivalries exploded over the spoils of postwar Libya.

On one side are the Zintan brigades – based in the city some 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Tripoli – with their anti-Islamist Qaaqaa and Al-Sawaiq fighters, including some ex-Gaddafi forces, and political allies who say they are a bulwark against Islamist extremists taking over Libya.

Against them are fighters loyal to the western port of Misrata who are allied with the Islamist Justice and Construction party, an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, who say they are fighting to purge ex-Gaddafi elements.

OIL OUTPUT DROPS

In a worrying development for Libya’s budget, the country’s lifeline oil production has slipped to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd)from 500,000 bpd a week ago, the National Oil Corp said on Monday, without explaining why output had fallen.

Even the previous figure is well below the 1.4 million bpd Libya produced a year ago, before strikes and blockades cut output and exports from the OPEC state.

Britain was closing its embassy operations on Monday, one of the last foreign governments to pull out its diplomatic staff, following the evacuation of the United States and the United Nations after the fighting erupted in Tripoli.

A Royal Navy ship on Sunday evacuated more than 100 British citizens, Libyan families and some foreign nationals. Some diplomats crossed by road into neighboring Tunisia.

With its national army still in formation, Libya’s fragile government has long struggled against the power of the militias, which have skirmished in parts of the capital since 2011.

Many of the militia brigades are on the government payroll, approved by competing factions in ministries and the parliament, but are often more loyal to commanders, political allies or regions than to the Libyan state.

The General National Congress was stormed numerous times by different militia brigades trying to pressure lawmakers on political decisions or to demand that it dissolve.

Most of Tripoli has stayed largely calm, with fighting mainly restricted to the de facto front lines in the south and parts of the west of the city. Fuel prices have soared on the black market as fighting has caused shortages.

In Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist fighters and ex-rebels have joined together to battle Libyan armed forces, seizing a special forces military base last week and pushing the army outside the city.

Those Islamists, from the Ansar al-Sharia group, are branded a terrorist organization by Washington and have been blamed for a 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died.

Libya Militias Resume Battle For Control Of Tripoli’s International Airport

A damaged plane at Libya’s main airport, following clashes between rival militias

CAIRO (AP) — Clashes between rival Libyan militias fighting for control of the capital’s international airport killed 47 people over the last week, Libya‘s Health Ministry said, as violence in an eastern city killed five.

The weeklong battle in Tripoli began when Islamist-led militias — mostly from the western city of Misrata — launched a surprise assault on the airport, under control of rival militias from the western mountain town of Zintan.

The clashes resumed Sunday after cease-fire efforts failed. On Monday, the burned-out shell of an Airbus A330 sat on the tarmac, a $113 million passenger jet for Libya’s state-owned Afriqiyah Airways destroyed in the fighting.

“This was the pride of the Libyan fleet,” Abdelkader Mohammed Ahmed, Libya’s transportation minister, told journalists at the airport. “This airplane used to fly to South Africa, Bangladesh and China.”

Inside the airport, closed since last Monday, the fighting left holes in the ceiling and scattered bits of its roof strewn across the floor.

The ministry said on its website late Sunday that the fighting killed 47 people and wounded 120. It also said it had not yet received the full casualty report.

Libya is witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. All the militias fighting around the airport are on the government’s payroll since successive transitional authorities have depended on them to restore order.

The rival militias, made up largely of former rebels, have forced a weeklong closure of gas stations and government offices.

In recent days, armed men have attacked vehicles carrying money from the Central Bank to local banks, forcing their closure.

Libyan government officials and activists have increasingly been targeted in the violence. Gunmen kidnapped two lawmakers in the western suburbs of Tripoli on Sunday, a parliament statement said.

In Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi, five troops were killed in an attack by Islamist militias on a barrack occupied by forces allied with Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a renegade general who has vowed to crush Islamic militias, a security official said. The assault early Monday wounded 29, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

In the past two days in Benghazi, the birthplace of anti-Gadhafi uprising, gunmen killed an army officer while he was driving home and a former special forces officer.

Meanwhile, a helicopter crashed in Benghazi while transporting cash to the eastern city of Bayda because of technical failure, according to a Joint Security Committee of Benghazi statement, posted on its official website. One person killed in the crash, it said, offering no other details.

The deteriorating security conditions prompted the U.N. Support Mission in Libya last week to say it was temporarily withdrawing its staff. On Monday, Libya’s official news agency reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross announced its withdrawal from Libya as well.

Benghazi women’s rights activist Salwa Bughagis murdered

Salwa Bughaigis voting in today’s elections (Photo: her Facebook page)

Benghazi women’s rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bughagis was murdered this evening by five gunmen who broke into her home in the city’s Hawari district and shot her in the head.

She was rushed to Benghazi Medical Centre but died shortly afterwards. She is also said to have stabbed several times.

A gardener was also said to have been shot in the attack; he is recovering. Her husband, Essam Al-Ghariani, is missing, presumed kidnapped.

She had earlier returned home after voting in today’s elections and put pictures on her Facebook page of herself casting her vote today. She was then on Al-Nabaa TV for a few minutes at around 6pm speaking about clashes in the city which she said she could see from her house between security forces and an Islamist brigade. She urged people to go out and vote

The killing has shocked Benghazi where she and her sister Iman were prominent supporters and activists in the revolution from its very beginning. However, her support for women’s rights made her a vocal opponent of not only Islamic extremists but also of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Grand Mufti. She was against the hijab, insisting it was not Islamic, and would not even wear a headscarf.

She had received a number of death threats which she ignored but after a reported attempt to kill her son earlier this year went abroad with the entire family. Nonetheless, she said at the time that nothing would stop her speaking out about women’s rights.

It is not known who killed her, but militant Islamists are being blamed. She had just returned to Libya with her husband to vote in the elections. It is thought that her TV appearance may have alerted her killers to the fact that she was back in Benghazi.

Abu Khattala’s capture is an I-told-you-so moment for Obama. But it could be short-lived.

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President Obama has long described the political aftermath of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, as a “sideshow,” a running series of partisan theatrics designed to embarrass the administration and inflame the conservative base.

It is now, for the first time in nearly two years, at the center of the American political conversation on terms Obama very much favors.

The weekend capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the suspected ringleaders of the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on a U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA-run annex, gives Obama another I-told-you-so moment in Washington’s scorekeeping culture.

But the achievement is likely to do little to tamp down the partisan fervor surrounding the administration’s public management of the deadly Benghazi attacks, a still-raw political legacy of the 2012 presidential campaign that continues to preoccupy Republican lawmakers and their most ardent supporters on the right.

How Obama decides to talk about Abu Khattala’s capture in the coming weeks may close the alternately infuriating and baffling episode for many Americans beyond the Beltway. Obama promised to bring to justice the killers of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and now, one of the alleged culprits is in U.S. hands.

“It’s important for us to send a message to the world that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice,” the president said Tuesday at an event in Pittsburgh. “That’s a message I sent the day after it happened, and regardless of how long it takes, we will find you. I want to make sure everyone around the world hears that message very clearly.”

A portrait of Ahmed Abu Khattala, as confirmed by two sources to The Washington Post. (Facebook)

For many in Washington, though, Benghazi has never been primarily about the attacks.

The capture does little to explain how the administration devised a set of “talking points,” requested at the time by members of Congress prepping for news media questions, that Republicans have come to view as a politically calculated obfuscation that helped shield Obama’s reelection effort from criticism.

That has been the Republican emphasis — and it is likely to remain so, given that then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, warming up to the idea of a presidential run in 2016, remains vulnerable. Recent polling suggests that much of the public, despite administration protests that the issue is a distraction from more pressing concerns, wants additional answers.

Within hours of the news that Abu Khattala had been captured, congressional Republicans congratulated the U.S. military, if not the White House.

But the partisan concern shifted quickly to the questions of where Abu Khattala would be held, at a time when Obama is seeking to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and whether the president would extend legal protections given to civilians charged with crimes.

The answers from the administration — no to Guantanamo, yes to due process — disappointed some prominent conservatives.

“The American people and the families of the victims deserve answers on this attack,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. “As with all detained al Qaeda affiliated extremists, I hope Abu Khattala will be treated as an enemy combatant and interrogated to the fullest extent possible. Obtaining information and intelligence from this terrorist must be our first priority.”

The capture recalls the May 2011 mission in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, a measured gamble that focused public opinion around Obama’s foreign policy competence and commitment to respect the legacy of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

It convinced most voters that the president elected to end the nation’s post-9/11 wars could still fight overseas, using intelligence, Special Operations forces and drones rather than vast armies. The public at the time agreed, pushing up his approval rating by nearly double digits within days of the bin Laden raid.

But like that one, this operation, too, may have a short-lived political benefit.

National security tactics and American global strategy are vastly different matters, and Obama’s foreign-policy-by-Special-Ops has proved in the past to have a political shelf life far shorter than he would like. The nine-point bump Obama received in the polls in the days after announcing bin Laden’s death had evaporated a month later.

Iraq, the nation’s most controversial post-9/11 project, is crumbling along sectarian lines under the crush of an armed Sunni Muslim insurgency. Syria is failing as a state, both in its governance and its territorial structure, with its eastern border fading as a line in Iraq’s western desert.

Post-revolution and now post-coup Egypt is again in the hands of the kind of military strongman Obama had pledged to no longer support in the name of stability. A newly ambitious Russia has annexed Crimea from Ukraine — and appears to be feeling little pressure to return it under U.S.-led international economic sanctions.

The American public has noticed, even as its post-9/11 wars come to an end. A Washington Post-ABC News poll published this month found that 41 percent of Americans approve of the way Obama manages international affairs, the lowest rating of his presidency.

But it is more than simply the array of faltering foreign places currently occupying Obama’s foreign policy agenda that may make the capture less important than the White House might hope.

It is also the nature of Benghazi, now like a Brazilian soccer star who needs only a single name, as a political issue that makes it particularly resistant to resolution.

Since the attacks, Benghazi has become the angry shorthand used by conservatives to describe what many of them view as Obama’s politically calibrated — and often feckless — foreign policy.

The assault, found to be a coordinated attack made amid the confusion provided by an anti-American demonstration, occurred during a bitter reelection contest.

In a race largely about the U.S. economy, Obama nonetheless relied on a reputation for competence and pragmatism in managing foreign affairs, as well as a national security policy that while reducing American forces abroad had “decimated,” in his words, al-Qaeda’s leadership.

Benghazi challenged Obama’s contention that he had al-Qaeda on the run.

Most worrisome to the president’s political team was Benghazi’s fading effect on the glow still surrounding the bin Laden mission, which Obama had celebrated a few months earlier with a series of speeches and campaign videos that made him a star of the story.

In the first days after the Benghazi assaults, the administration’s confused response began, in Washington and on the campaign trail at least, to seem to some Republicans as more significant than the security failure itself and what that failure said about Obama’s foreign policy. Stevens, 52, was the first serving U.S. ambassador killed in more than three decades.

Only a year earlier, Obama had opened a third U.S.-led war in a Muslim nation to protect the rebellious enclave of Benghazi from Moammar Gaddafi. Far from grateful, the city, seething as part of the wider anti-American unrest across the Islamic world, had turned sharply on its ostensible saviors.

Republicans focused on the administration’s messaging, rather than on whether Obama’s commitment to Libya had faltered or whether, even more essentially, his broader outreach to the Islamic word had been ill-conceived all along.

But recent polling has shown that Benghazi still resonates with much of the country, namely the questions many Republicans say remain unanswered despite a series of congressional hearings.

Those include where Obama was at the time of the attacks, how and why they were carried out, and who in the administration decided to emphasize a spontaneous protest as the root of the assaults rather than terrorist planning.

How raw and unresolved Benghazi remains, particularly on the right, was visible this week at a forum hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

A Muslim woman questioning the consensus view at the meeting that Islam is the enemy was challenged by an angry crowd, after hearing from panelists who, among other charges, accused Obama of seeking to impose sharia law in the United States.

Republicans in Congress have remained closer to the attacks and the administration’s response than some of their conservative supporters. But the level of persistence remains years and many committee hearings after the event.

Last week, members of Congress pressed FBI Director James B. Comey Jr. for a sense of the administration’s progress on finding Abu Khattala, part of the designated terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia, and whether he believed the U.S. government had the legal authority to apprehend him if located.

“In terms of Benghazi and the perpetrators, would you say at this point that finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice is purely a matter for law enforcement?” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) asked Comey during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

“No,” Comey said. “I would say as in any case, especially terrorism cases, all instruments of U.S. power are brought to bear.”

“But is your understanding — because it is my understanding that the administration’s position is — that they do not have the legal authority to lethally engage Ansar al-Sharia or whoever you want to say committed those attacks?” Goodlatte persisted.

“I don’t want to talk about how I’m approaching that investigation because I don’t want to give anything away to the bad guys,” Comey said.

On Tuesday, Obama had a new set of talking points about Benghazi and its epilogue.

Like congressional Republicans, he thanked the military, law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community for the mission. He also sought to head off accusations that he is moving on from Benghazi, saying the pursuit of all those behind the attacks will proceed.

“We will remain vigilant against all acts of terrorism,” Obama said in a statement, echoing the phrase he first used in the Rose Garden the day after the assaults, “and we will continue to prioritize the protection of our service members and civilians overseas.”

 The Washington Post.

Benghazi attack suspect captured by American team, en route to US

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A suspected terrorist linked to the 2012 Benghazi terror attack that killed four Americans has been captured inside Libya by U.S. forces and currently is en route to the United States, Fox News has learned.

Sources told Fox News that the suspect, Ansar al-Sharia commander Ahmed Abu Khattala, was captured Sunday during a joint U.S. military and law enforcement operation, and will face prosecution in the United States.

President Obama signed off on the mission on Friday night, Fox News is told. Khattala was captured south of Benghazi by U.S. special operators and is on his way to the U.S. aboard a Navy ship.

Khattala was long thought to be one of the ringleaders of the deadly attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died. He had openly granted media interviews since the 2012 attack, but until now evaded capture.

The capture marks the first time the United States has caught one of the suspects in the 2012 assault.

“He didn’t know what hit him,” one source told Fox News of the capture. According to sources, there was no firefight — a small Special Forces team with one FBI agent took part in the mission.

White House and Pentagon officials publicly confirmed the capture late Tuesday morning. In a written statement, Obama said: “The United States has an unwavering commitment to bring to justice those responsible for harming Americans.”

He thanked the “painstaking efforts of our military, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel,” and said the suspect would “now face the full weight of the American justice system.”

“With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans. We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks,” Obama said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby called Khattala a “key figure in the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi.” He said there were no civilian casualties in the weekend operation, and all U.S. personnel have “safely departed” Libya.

The administration has faced sustained criticism from some in Congress and the families of the victims over the fact that no one had been brought to justice since that day in 2012.

State Department official Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were also killed during the attack. Khattala’s capture came 642 days later.

With Khattala expected to face prosecution in a U.S. court, the administration already is being pressed to hold off on reading him his Miranda rights until he is interrogated.

“I am pleased that Khattala is finally in U.S. custody, and I am grateful for the military, intelligence, and law enforcement professionals who helped capture him,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in a statement, adding: “Rather than rushing to read him his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent, I hope the administration will focus on collecting the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks and to find other terrorists responsible for the Benghazi attacks.”

Khattala faces three counts in the federal complaint against him, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

They are: killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility; providing or attempting to provide support to terrorists resulting in death; and using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department retains the option of adding additional charges.

“Our nation’s memory is long and our reach is far,” Holder said in a statement, adding: “Even as we begin the process of putting Khatallah on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators.”

Khattala, until this past weekend, had loomed as an almost taunting presence. A month after the attack, he admitted to Fox News that he was at the scene of the attack, though claimed he did not plan it. At the time, he claimed he was just directing traffic and looking after fellow militia members guarding the complex.

He offered no remorse, though, for the killing of four Americans. At the time, he said he had not yet been contacted by U.S. officials.

“Leave Libya or be buried here” Hafter warns Ansar Al-Sharia

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In a swingeing attack on Ansar Al-Sharia, Operation Dignity leader General General Khalifa Hafter warned today that foreign militants who did quit Libya would die here.

“All terrorists who have entered Libya should leave it or they will be buried in it” he said in an interview on the Al-Arabiya TV channel.

He also accused Qatar of being behind a plot to kill him. “The assassination attempt that targeted us was carried out by Ansar Al-Sharia and supported and planned by Qatar and Libyan Fighting Group. It was an unsuccessful attempt”.

Hafter told the interviewer: “We are stronger than before in the level of equipment and forces and we do not need any support because the men and munitions are available”.

He added:”I assure you that 80 percent of the members of the Libyan air force, naval and army, are all with Operation Dignity. Very few who are working in the state cannot contribute and our numbers are increasing every day.”

Later at a press conference Hafter assured Libyans that Operation Dignity was gaining ground in its battle against terror and pledged to support democracy as the country moved toward the parliamentary election on 25 June.

He asked for border closures everywhere to contain the militias.

“We are progressing swiftly and gaining huge victories on the ground,” he said. “All that we ask for now is to close the borders to prevent the armed groups from fleeing or receiving support from outside.”

He said that he recognised the efforts of Chad, Niger, Egypt and Sudan over the past few months, who, he maintained, had all tightened up security at their borders, making it difficult for armed groups to move in and out.

“We are taking the armed groups step by step,” he explained. “They have not yet experienced the true meaning of war,” he threatened.

The general also lauded the Supreme Court of Libya, “which proved that it has the final call on all disputes across the country,” and expressed his appreciation for the Court’s decision on 9 June.

Greeting President Sisi and the Egyptian people, he expressed confidence in the new president, a man who “has come at just the right time—the perfect man in the perfect place”.

Claiming to be watching its every move, the general reminded Libyans that Ansar Al-Sharia has done nothing but kill, pointing out that, besides the security forces the group had targeted doctors, journalists and farmers. “Therefore,” he said, “we shall speak the same language that they do”.

He ended by assuring the public that Operation Dignity had not received any funding from outside of Libya.

Sources : DOD memo sent after Benghazi attack listed suspects with Al Qaeda ties

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A targeting memo sent to the State Department by the Defense Department’s Africa Command two days after the Benghazi attack listed 11 suspects with ties to Al Qaeda and other groups, counter-terrorism and congressional sources confirmed to Fox News.

This is significant because it arrived two days before then-UN ambassador Susan Rice appeared on television shows blaming the assault on an inflammatory video. It also came nearly a day before presidential aide Ben Rhodes sent an email also suggesting the video – and not a policy failure – was to blame for the Sep, 11, 2012 attack that claimed four American lives.

The memo, which was referred to in passing during recent congressional testimony, was drawn up by the Defense Department’s Africa command, known as Africom, and was sent to the State Department as the best available intelligence in the early morning hours of September 14, 2012.

It included the names of 11 suspects, four connected to the Al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa known as AQIM, and seven connected to Ansar al-Sharia, a group with ties to the terrorist network.

“They knew from the get-go that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack so the idea that the Obama administration didn’t know that early on or they suspected it was something else entirely basically is willful blindness,”said counter-terrorism analyst Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“You have to look at the facts and what the intelligence says and that intelligence was clear that known Al Qaeda personalities were involved in this attack.”

In her new book, “Hard Choices,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the administration made new information available as soon as it was received.

“Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people,” she wrote. “There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong.”

While the contents of the email are stamped classified, an attachment including a flow chart showing the relationship among the suspects, is not classified, according to a leading Republican on the House Government Oversight Committee who has seen the memo and wants the administration to release it.

“This is a document from military intelligence widely distributed to the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, the intelligence community,”said Rep.Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

“This was not buried in the bowels of some email chain. This was a widely distributed document. It demonstrated that Ansar al-Sharia and specifically Al Qaeda were involved in this attack. It should have been something that was put out immediately, not nearly two years after the fact.”

The memo was among some 3,000 documents recently released by the State Department to the oversight committee. With the House Speaker establishing a select committee to investigate Benghazi, all documents from the relevant House committee investigations were handed over.

Asked about the memo, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was not familiar with it, adding “We described the perpetrators as terrorists from the beginning, we’ve discussed this fact over and over again of course from the podium and again that hasn’t changed.”

But a review of the State Department transcripts in the first week after the attack shows then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland resisted the terrorism description, instead telling reporters on Sep.17, 2012 that the government was still investigating.

Asked by a reporter if the administration regarded the attack as “an act of terrorism,” Nuland replied, “I don’t think we know enough. I don’t think we know enough. And we’re going to continue to assess… We’re going to have a full investigation now, and then we’ll be in a better position to put labels on things, okay?”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

At least 20 killed, dozens wounded in clashes in Libya’s Benghazi: medics

General Khalifa Haftar (C) holds a news conference in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi.

General Khalifa Haftar (C) holds a news conference in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi.

(Reuters) – At least 20 people were killed and almost 70 wounded when the Libyan army and forces of a renegade general fought Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, medical sources said.

Combat helicopters belonging to forces loyal to former army general Khalifa Haftar – who wants to purge the North African state of Islamist militants he says a weak government has failed to control – supported the army in the worst fighting in months.

At least 20 people were killed and 67 wounded in Benghazi alone, hospital doctors said. Some 18 wounded were reported in al-Marj, a town east of Benghazi, where fighting also broke out, medical sources said.

Libya is in protracted turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions locked in conflict.

The Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacked a camp on Monday belonging to army special forces, residents there said. Haftar’s forces joined the battle taking place in residential areas with frightened families staying indoors. Schools and universities were closed.

Special army troops were also seen moving reinforcements to the area of fighting in the west of Libya’s second-largest city.

Haftar started a campaign to battle Islamists two weeks ago. Since then, public life has come almost to a standstill in the city, home to several oil companies. Its airport is closed.

On Sunday, a warplane belonging to Haftar bombed a university faculty while trying to attack a nearby Islamist camp. Two people were wounded.

The government, rival militia brigades and political factions rejected Haftar’s offensive against militants as an attempted coup after his forces also stormed parliament a week ago.

Ansar al-Sharia, listed as a terrorist group by Washington, warned the United States last week against interfering in Libya’s crisis and accused Washington of backing Haftar.

Gaddafi’s one-man rule, followed by three years of unrest, have left Libya with few functioning institutions and no real national army to impose authority on the competing militias and brigades of former rebels who have become power-brokers.

The acting prime minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, refused on Wednesday to hand over power to a newly elected premier. The OPEC oil producer now has two prime ministers and a parliament deadlocked by splits between factions.

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Libyan special forces commander says his forces join renegade general

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(Reuters) – The commander of Libyan army special forces said on Monday he had allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar in his campaign against militant Islamists, highlighting the failure of central government in Tripoli to assert its authority.

The announcement gives a major boost to a campaign by Haftar, who has been denounced by the Tripoli government as attempting to stage a coup in the oil producer.

It remains unclear how many troops support Haftar, whose forces launched an attack on Islamist militants in Benghazi on Friday in which more than 70 people died. Militiamen apparently allied to Haftar also stormed parliament in Tripoli on Sunday.

The violence has compounded government’s apparent weakness in combating militias which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

“We are with Haftar,” Special Forces Commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters in the eastern city of Benghazi. On live television he had earlier announced his forces would join “Operation Dignity”, as Haftar calls his campaign.

The special forces are the best trained troops of Libya‘s nascent army. They have been deployed since last year in Benghazi to help stem a wave of car bombs and assassinations, but struggled to curb the activities of heavily-armed Islamist militias roaming the city.

An air base in Tobruk in Libya’s far east also declared alliance with Haftar’s force to fight “extremists”.

“The Tobruk air force base will join … the army under the command of General Khalifa Qassim Haftar,” the statement said.

Staff at the air base confirmed its authenticity.

UNCERTAINTY OVER PRIME MINISTER

Since the end of Gaddafi’s one-man rule, the main rival militias of ex-rebels have become powerbrokers in Libya’s political vacuum, carving out fiefdoms.

Compounding the anarchy, Libya’s outgoing government demanded parliament to go into recess after the forthcoming vote on the 2014 budget until the next election later this year, according to a statement issued after a cabinet meeting.

Haftar and other militias have demanded that a parliament, paralyzed by infighting step down.

The government demanded that parliament repeat a vote on a new prime minister. Business Ahmed Maiteeq was named as new premier two weeks ago in a chaotic vote disputed by many lawmakers.

“This government submits a national initiative to the General National Congress (GNC) to reach a national consensus during this decisive phase,” the statement of the cabinet of outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thinni said.

Should the GNC fail to agree on a new premier then Thinni’s cabinet should stay, it said. There was no immediate reaction from the GNC which is unlikely to give up power without a fight.

Haftar, once a Gaddafi ally who turned against him over a 1980s war in Chad, fueled rumors of a coup in February when he appeared on television in uniform calling for a caretaker government to end the crisis in Libya.

 

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