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Eye Witness Report on Benghazi

Eye Witness Report on Benghazi

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Published by jb_uspu

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Published by: jb_uspu on Oct 28, 2012
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Libyan witnesses recount organized Benghaziattack 
Saturday, October 27, 2012TRIPOLI, Libya -- It began around nightfall on Sept. 11 with around 150 bearded gunmen, somewearing the Afghan-style tunics favored by Islamic militants, sealing off the streets leading tothe U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. They set up roadblocks with pick-up trucks mounted with heavymachine guns, according to witnesses.The trucks bore the logo of Ansar al-Shariah, a powerful local group of Islamist militants whoworked with the municipal government to manage security in Benghazi, the main city in easternLibya and birthplace of the uprising last year that ousted Moammar Gadhafi after a 42-yeardictatorship.There was no sign of a spontaneous protest against an American-made movie denigrating Islam'sProphet Muhammad. But a lawyer passing by the scene said he saw the militants gatheringaround 20 youths from nearby to chant against the film. Within an hour or so, the assault began,guns blazing as the militants blasted into the compound.One of the consulate's private Libyan guards said masked militants grabbed him and beat him,one of them calling him "an infidel protecting infidels who insulted the prophet."
The witness accounts gathered by The Associated Press give a from-the-ground perspective forthe sharply partisan debate in the U.S. over the attack that left U.S. ambassador Chris Stevensand three other Americans dead. They corroborate the conclusion largely reached by Americanofficials that it was a planned militant assault. But they also suggest the militants may have usedthe film controversy as a cover for the attack.The ambiguity has helped fuel the election-time bickering in the United States ever since.The Obama administration has sent out muddled messages whether it was a planned attack or amob protest that got out of control. A day after the attack, President Barack Obama referred to"acts of terror." He told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview aired the following Sunday that hebelieved those involved "were looking to target Americans from the start."Within 24 hours of the attack, both the embassy in Tripoli and the CIA station chief sent word toWashington that it was a planned militant attack. Still, days later, the U.S. ambassador to theU.N., Susan Rice, said the attack began as a spontaneous protest over the film.Republicans, embroiled in a heated presidential campaign, seized on the confusion. They haveaccused the Obama administration of being hesitant to call it a "terrorist attack" linked to al-Qaida because that would weaken one of Obama's key campaign selling points -- that under hiswatch, al-Qaida had been weakened and Osama bin Laden had been killed.As that debate roiled, the actual events -- and their meaning -- became somewhat skewed in themouths of politicians. One assumption often made in the back-and-forth is that if the attack wasplanned, then it must have been linked to al-Qaida.Ansar al-Shariah, the group whose members are suspected in the attack, is made up of militantswith an al-Qaida-like ideology, but it is not clear whether it has any true ties to the terrororganization. Made up mainly of veterans of last year's civil war, it is one of the many powerful,heavily armed militias that operate freely in Libya and in Benghazi, while government controlremains weak. Some Benghazi officials have praised Ansar al-Shariah for helping keep order inthe city, even as they note its jihadi ideology.With its arsenal of weapons, the group is capable of carrying out such an attack on the consulateon its own and even on relatively short notice. Islamist militias in Benghazi had in previousmonths threatened to attack the compound.U.S. officials say they are still investigating whether there is an al-Qaida connection. They saymembers of Ansar al-Shariah called members of al-Qaida's branch in North Africa outside of Libya and boasted of the attack. The administration has even said it is prepared to carry outdrone strikes against the branch, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, if a link isproven. But the officials also acknowledge the calls alone do not yet prove AQIM was involved.A day after the Benghazi attack, an unidentified Ansar al-Shariah spokesman said the militia wasnot involved "as an organization" -- leaving open the possibility members were involved. He
praised the attack as a popular "uprising" sparked by the anti-Islam film, further propagating theimage of a mob attack against the consulate.So far, the attackers' motives can only be speculated at.Yasser el-Sirri, a former Egyptian militant who runs the Islamic Observation Center in Londonclosely tracking jihadi groups, said the attack "had nothing to do with the film but it was acoincidence that served the (militants') purpose."He believes the ambassador was the target and the attackers may have been inspired by an al-Qaida call to avenge the death of a top Libyan jihadist on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks onthe United States in 2001. But he offered no firm evidence that was the motive.The news trickled out slowly the night of the attack, with initial reports overshadowed by thestorming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by protesters angry over the film. It was only the nextmorning that Stevens' death was confirmed.On the day of the attack and the next day, The Associated Press referred to it as a mob attack,based on Libyan officials' comment that there was a significant unarmed protest at the time. Inreporting the following days, AP referred to it as an "armed attack" and detailed its organizednature.The past week, the AP has gathered accounts from five witnesses, including one of the embassyguards and several people living next door to the consulate compound who were present whenthe militants first moved in. Most spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals fortalking about the attack.The neighbors all described the militants setting up checkpoints around the compound at about 8p.m. The State Department's timeline says the attack itself began at around 9:40 p.m.Khaled al-Haddar, a lawyer who passed by the scene as he headed to his nearby home, said hesaw the fighters gathering a few youths from among passers-by and urged them to chant againstthe film."I am certain they had planned to do something like this, I don't know if it was hours or days, butit was definitely planned," said al-Haddar. "From the way they set up the checkpoints andgathered people, it was very professional."The guard said he saw no protesters. He heard a few shouts of "God is great," then a barrage of automatic weapons fire and rocket-propelled grenades began, along with barrages from heavymachine guns mounted on trucks.The attackers set fire to the main consulate building. Stevens and another staffer, caught insideamid the confusion, died of smoke inhalation.

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Impeach and jail Obama for treason...
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