The military assault against the US Consulate in Benghazi should not be seen as part of a protest against a low budget film which was insulting Islam – there were just a few peaceful protesters present at the event. Indeed, there have been no other demonstrations regarding this film in Libya.
We at Quilliam believe the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was a well planned terrorist attack that would have occurred regardless of the demonstration, to serve another purpose. According to information obtained by Quilliam – from foreign sources and from within Benghazi – we have reason to believe that the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi came to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second in command killed a few months ago.
The reasons for this are as follows:
- 24 hours before this attack, none other than the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a video on Jihadist forums to mark the anniversary of 9/11. In this video, Zawahiri acknowledged the death of his second in command Abu Yahya and urged Libyans to avenge his killing.
- 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.
- According to our sources, the attack against the Consulate had two waves. The first attack led to US officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against US officials after they were kept in a secure location.
The weak security environment in Libya including in Benghazi and the failure of the government to project its power outside of the capital have been used as a cover for the attack.
The failure to rebuild the defence and security sector, in an accountable, professional and responsible manner will only further the likelihood of such attacks in the future. Attacks in Benghazi are not new – the Red Cross has been attacked multiple times in previous months, as have the US consulate and also the UK Ambassador, and such security lapses encourage attacks. The International Community must take the challenge of not allowing extremist elements to hijack the Arab Uprisings very seriously, by renewing their focus on civic and governance responses to check the efforts of Islamist extremists attempting to exploit the inevitable security vacuum.
Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam says:
“These are acts committed by uncontrollable jihadist groups. We hope Libya will seize this opportunity to revive its policy of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration (DDR) in order to facilitate an end to the spread of such attacks, with the help of the International Community. We hope that the International Community, including NATO member states and especially the US, will continue their excellent work in Libya which began with the overthrow of the dictator Gaddafi after 42 years in power.”