Libyan group to be labeled terrorists
By McClatchy Newspapers
Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 9:21 p.m.
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday will slap a terrorist designation on a militant Islamist group it believes played a role in the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, but the move will stop short of naming any individual as responsible for planning or leading the assault.
The designations of Libyan and Tunisian branches of the Ansar al Shariah network will be the first time the Obama administration has made a formal accusation that the group was involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
However, U.S. authorities haven't concluded that the leader of one branch of Ansar al Shariah, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, a former detainee at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was involved in the attack.
The investigation is open, and authorities haven't ruled out Qumu's involvement, but the matter is not decided, a senior U.S. official said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because the designation isn't official until Friday.
Qumu, 54, is the leader of Ansar al Shariah in Derna, Libya, which lies about 180 miles east of Benghazi. The Derna branch of Ansar al Shariah will be designated a terrorist organization, as will branches in Benghazi and in neighboring Tunisia.
“We're not saying he wasn't involved in some way, but we're not saying that he was,” the official said.
Qumu, who's alleged to have trained at one of al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden's camps and fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was released from Guantanamo in 2007. He was sent to Libya, where he was imprisoned by then-leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime until the next year.
Qumu and two other Ansar al Shariah leaders — Ahmed Abu Khattala and Seif Allah bin Hassine — will be singled out as “specially designated global terrorists,” a label that subjects them to a freeze of financial assets and bars American companies and individuals from doing business with them.
But the designation won't link the groups to al-Qaida, something likely to spark debate, especially from Republicans, who have accused the Obama administration of trying to cover up the circumstances of the Benghazi attack.
Ansar al Shariah has been suspected of being involved in the attack from the beginning, but other groups are thought to have participated.
U.S. officials have struggled in the 16 months since to piece together precisely what happened.
Singling out Ansar al Shariah “doesn't mean we're not concerned about the other groups, and it doesn't mean that the other groups don't have ties,” the U.S. official said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wikileaks founder teases about more secrets to be released
- Expats renounce citizenship over U.S. tax hassles
- Obama losing close adviser to end 9 years of service
- World War II veteran receives once-declined Purple Heart
- Sullivan case still relied on in libel claims
- Oklahoma governor’s daughter regrets wearing Native American headdress
- Parents of ‘spoiled’ teen urge her to return home
- John Denver tune finally an ‘official’ W.Va. state song
- Immigrant detainees on hunger strike
- Flubbed ‘stifling’ finally ends 29-round spelling bee
- Obama gets in some golf on family trip to Key Largo