The terror group Ansar al-Shariah, suspected of carrying out the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, is the "new face of al-Qaida," Rep. Peter King asserted Monday.
"The fact is, this is the new face of al-Qaida. We have to face up to that. That is what a number of us have been saying for several years now," King, the former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told Fox News.
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The New York Republican agreed with the Obama administration that the core al-Qaida group founded by Osama bin Laden has been "weakened," but insisted that it has "metastasized" and "morphed" into "more of a threat" than when the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001.
He added that if the U.S. State Department does not recognize al-Shariah or certain other terrorist groups as affiliates at al-Qaida, "then that is a very, very real policy issue that has to be discussed."
King made the comments in response to a New York Times report over the weekend claiming the Benghazi attack was not carried out by a al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group, but was prompted in part by an American-made anti-Muslim video, as initially claimed by the White House. The Times report put the blame for the attack directly on extremist militia leaders in Libya who had helped to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi with the aid of both the U.S. and NATO.
King, like many other Republicans who have blasted the Times report since its release on Saturday, also suggested the article could serve to "defuse" what many believe could be a Republican issue against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president in 2016.
Republicans blame Clinton for failing to beef up security at the Benghazi compound, despite repeated warnings to the State Department that it was vulnerable to attack.
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