President Obama ‘s administration initially cited local outrage over the film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ which mocks the Prophet Muhammad, as the motivation for the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The latest New York Times report supports that version of events.
The deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year was not orchestrated by Al Qaeda but rather by a local militia leader and other Libyans who were outraged by a video lampooning Islam, according to a new report.
An investigation by The New York Times, published Saturday, supported the initial version of events provided by the Obama administration immediately after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack — an account that spawned a vehement Republican cry that the President was trying to downplay the attack to protect his reelection bid.
Administration officials initially cited local outrage over the film “Innocence of Muslims” — which mocks the Prophet Muhammad — as the motivation for the attack. Four Americans were slain, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
But, as GOP criticism mounted, the administration later said the film wasn’t a factor and that Al Qaeda was behind the bloodshed. The backtracking fueled Republican arguments that Obama made a political decision to downplay Al Qaeda’s involvement for fear that word of a terrorist strike on a diplomatic outpost could decide the close race with GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
A Libyan man investigates the inside of the U.S. Consulate on Sept. 13, 2012, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya.
But now, the Times report lends credence to the administration’s initial version of events while also placing blame on the CIA and administration officials for being overly focused on Al Qaeda prior to the attack and naively believing that Libyan militias would become long-term American allies.
The paper described the prime suspect in the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, as an “erratic extremist” and militia leader with no known ties to Al Qaeda.
But that didn’t mean Khattala wasn’t a threat. According to The Times, he made it clear that he regarded the U.S. as infidels whom he despised almost as much as his nemesis, Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy.
ESAM OMRAN AL-FETORI/REUTERS
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film, ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ being produced in the U.S. Sept. 11, 2012.
And once Khdafy was toppled and slain by Libyans in 2011, Khattala — much like other Libyan militia leaders who benefited from U.S. aid — allegedly put Americans in his cross hairs.
Still, the attack was not “meticulously planned” nor entirely spontaneous, according to the paper. Surveillance of the compound appeared to be underway 12 hours before the assault.
But once the assault began, people not involved in its planning, who were angered by “Innocence of Muslims,” joined in the mayhem, according to the paper.
Rioters and looters not associated with any militia later tore the mission to shreds and set it ablaze.
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