Clinton Links al-Qaida Group to Deadly Libyan Attack

Wednesday, 26 Sep 2012 09:32 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated for the first time on Wednesday that there was a link between al-Qaida operatives in North Africa and the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Speaking at a special United Nations meeting, Clinton cited the Libya attack as an example of the kind of action the region’s growing extremist groups were carrying out, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

The meeting addressed instability in the Sahel, the African region that includes Mali, where Islamist extremists control the north of the country, The Monitor reports.

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“What is happening inside Mali is augmented by the rising threat from violent extremism across the region,” Clinton said, The Monitor reports.
She added that groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, have launched attacks from northern Mali into neighboring countries.

These same groups, Clinton said, “are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

The White House said last week that it was “self-evident” that the Benghazi attack was “terrorism,” but Republican critics have said the administration for too long attributed the assault to a spontaneous and unorganized mob.

Matthew Olsen, the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, also said in congressional testimony last week that the attack was “terrorism,” and he cited al-Qaida.

But he said only that information suggested individuals involved in the attack might have had some level of contact with al-Qaida and its affiliates – in particular, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, President Obama said the attack on Benghazi was an attack “on America," and he said the United States would be “relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice," but he provided no insight into who the killers were.

In her comments on Wednesday, Clinton said the U.S. is working with several including Libya to find the perpetrators of the attack, while also “stepping up our counterterrorism efforts across the Maghreb and Sahel,” The Monitor reports.

Some intelligence specialists have suggested that the attack could have been the work of Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan jihadist group. During the chaotic period following Libya’s revolution, the group could have had access to the heavier arms used in the consulate attack, The Monitor reports.

Libya’s president, Mohamed Magariaf, has insisted that the attack was the work of AQIM. The al-Qaida affiliate originated in Algeria, but intelligence officials say it has been expanding eastward and southward as instability has seized North Africa and the Sahel, The Monitor reports.

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Clinton said on Wednesday that U.S. concerns about the spread of Islamist extremism in the region predate the Benghazi attack.

The United States, she said, is “expanding our counterterrorism partnerships to help countries meet their own growing threats,” The Monitor reports.

Clinton added that the U.S. is “taking aim at the support structure of al-Qaida and its affiliates – closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering their ideology and denying them recruits,” The Monitor reports.

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