Former Gitmo detainee implicated in Benghazi attack
U.S. officials suspect a former Guantanamo Bay detainee played a role in the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, and are planning to designate the group he leads as a foreign terrorism organization, according to officials with the plans.
Militiamen under the command of Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, participated in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, U.S. officials said.
Witnesses have told American officials that Qumu's men were in Benghazi before the attack took place on Sept. 11, 2012, according to the officials. It's unclear if they where there as part of a preplanned attack or out of happenstance. The drive from Darnah to Benghazi is several hours.
The State Department is expected to tie Qumu's group to the Benghazi attack when it designates three branches of Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah, Tunisia and Benghazi as foreign terrorism organizations in the coming days.
Qumu and two other individuals, including militia leaders Ahmed Abu Khattala and Seif Allah bin Hassine, will also be identified as “specially designated global terrorists,” a determination that allows U.S. officials to freeze their financial assets and bar American citizens and companies from doing business with them.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the developments.
About a dozen criminal complaints have been filed in the Benghazi case, with more expected. U.S. intelligence officials have said several militias had a hand in the Benghazi attack. Some of those individuals charged so far are from Darnah, although it's not clear if they are tied to Qumu's group. Khattala has already been named in a criminal complaint.
The FBI declined to comment Tuesday.
U.S officials are also investigating whether any of the people involved in the Benghazi raid had a role in the slaying of Ronnie Smith, an American schoolteacher who was gunned down while jogging in the city last month.
Lawless conditions in eastern Libya have frustrated U.S. efforts to investigate the attack in Benghazi and capture those responsible. U.S. officials scrapped a plan to snatch Khattala in Benghazi for fear that American action could trigger unrest and possibly destabilize the Libyan government.
Khattala, meanwhile, has flaunted his freedom, giving interviews to U.S. reporters as the FBI watches from afar. Khattala has denied any involvement in the attack.
Qumu, 54, a Libyan from Darnah, is well known to U.S. intelligence officials. A former tank driver in the Libyan army, he served 10 years in prison in the country before fleeing to Egypt and then to Afghanistan.
In 1993, he trained at one of Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps in Afghanistan and later worked for a bin Laden company in Sudan, where the al-Qaida leader lived for three years, according to U.S. military files disclosed by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
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.
- U.S., Arab allies hit IS strongholds in Syria, Iraq
- At least 40 Iraqi soldiers killed in Islamic State strike; dozens captured
- Jordan-based bank liable in suicide bombings that killed, injured Americans
- Muti backs out of Rome theater commitment
- Convict’s wish for assisted suicide OK’d in Belgium
- 3 troops killed in Taliban strike in Afghanistan
- Islamic State link with well-heeled companies or individuals targeted
- U.S.: Ebola cases could hit 1.4 million by mid-January