New Reports Cast More Doubt on NYT Benghazi Story

Image: New Reports Cast More Doubt on NYT Benghazi Story

Monday, 30 Dec 2013 11:27 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A new report has blasted The New York Times story that claims there's no evidence to prove that al-Qaida took part in the deadly attacks in Benghazi.

The controversial Times article published Saturday claims that al-Qaida or any other international terrorist organization played no role in the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Now The Daily Beast's Eli Lake reports that "evidence has emerged in the last year that does show the participation of militias and fighters with known ties to al-Qaida."

Republican Rep. Mike Rogers and Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, who are both members of the House intelligence committee, have condemned the Times report, saying that intelligence reports have shown al-Qaida was to blame for the assault.

The Times focused its claim on an interview with militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala, who admitted he was one of the attackers but denies he has any connection to al-Qaida.

But The Daily Beast points out that Abu Khattala was "by no means" the only person who was involved in the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Benghazi.

Lake contends that some of the fighters are thought to be from a terror group called the Jamal Network, which is led by Mohammed al-Jamal, a former top lieutenant to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al- Qaida.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the participation of the Jamal Network in the Benghazi attacks. In October, the network was designated by the State Department as a terror group with ties to al-Qaida.

Although the Times had previously reported that the network had taken part in the attacks, the controversial new report by the liberal-leaning newspaper fails to even mention the Jamal Network.

The Daily Beast also pointed to its own earlier investigation on the attacks, stating that the Times downplayed its report that an intercepted phone conversation from one of the attackers boasted about the firefight to a person connected to all the al-Qaida affiliates in northern Africa.

The Times claimed the al-Qaida official seemed shocked by the attack during the phone conversation, as though he had no previous knowledge of the assault, says The Daily Beast.

Of one thing, there is no doubt — a local jihadist militia group called Ansar al-Sharia, formed earlier that year in the north African country, definitely took part in the attack.

But the Times report maintains that the group had no known ties to al-Qaida and draws a distinct difference between the Benghazi branch of Ansar al-Sharia and the Dernaa branch of the group that was led by a former Guantanamo detainee Sufian Ben Qhumu.

A Pentagon profile on al-Qaida in Libya in August 2012, just one month before the Benghazi attacks, found that Ansar al-Sharia had "increasingly embodied al-Qaida’s presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States."

Also in October, Tunisia's Prime Minister Ali Larayedh told Reuters that "there is a relation between leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya."

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