Report: Libya Attacks May Have Been Planned Long Before Protests
BENGHAZI, Libya — A U.S. State Department spokeswoman says that security at the Libyan consulate in advance of the September 11 anniversary was “appropriate for what we knew” prior to this week’s deadly terror attacks.
According to CNN, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that there was a local guard force stationed around the outer perimeters and a “robust” American security presence in the compound prior to the Tuesday rocket attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said on Thursday that at least one person was in custody in connection to the attack, and that, “three or four are currently being pursued.”
The developments come after reports that the attack in Libya was planned well in advance by supporters of Al Qaida in retaliation for the killing of an Al Qaida leader earlier this year, and not as a direct result of widespread protests over an anti-Islam film that appeared on YouTube.
Sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya told CNN on Thursday that a pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the consulate – called the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades – is a chief suspect in the attack.
The sources also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the June death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior Libyan member of the terror group.
Noman Benotman, president of the counter-extremist group Quilliam Foundation in London, told CNN, “An attack like this would likely have required preparation. This would not seem to be merely a protest which escalated.”
“According to our sources, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault; it is rare that an RPG7 is present at a peaceful protest,” Benotman said.
U.S. officials say that they are not ruling out any possibilities at this point.
The investigation comes after word that the FBI spoke in the last 24 hours to the filmmaker of the controversial movie, a federal law enforcement official told CNN. A member of the production staff who worked on an anti-Islam film that has sparked widespread protests has told CNN that the producer’s name was listed as Abenob Nakoula Basseley on paperwork filed with the Screen Actors Guild.
In previous media interviews, the filmmaker had identified himself as “Sam Bacile” and said he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California. The amateurish video – called “The Muhammad Movie” and alleged to be a spoof – portrays the prophet Muhammed as a pedophile and fool, and was first posted to YouTube this past July.
The staffer, who did not want to be identified for security reasons, said he believed the filmmaker was actually a Coptic Christian from Egypt.
According to the Associated Press, the alleged filmmaker was convicted in the U.S. in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California, and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, ordered to pay over $790,000 in restitution and ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without the permission of his parole officer.
Here is the controversial YouTube video that sparked the protests across the region this week. (WARNING: The following video may be offensive to some readers. Viewer discretion advised!)