The ongoing investigation into the Benghazi attack- “capabilities in place” to retaliate, “hold up is in Washington”

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

US Consulate in Benghazi on fire.

Asharq Al-Awsat, an international Arabic daily based in London, has provided a little more of a window into the investigation than MSM has been providing in the United States.  The daily describes some of the suspects and their connection to Al Qaeda.

Asharq Al-Awsat  noted:

-sources close to the FBI investigation into the attack also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that primary evidence in the case has been lost or compromised after the Libyan authorities failed to secure the scene of the crime over a period of two weeks.

-Libyan authorities arrested 8 suspects in connection with the attack

-The FBI team is reportedly made up of between 20 and 25 agents, in addition to around 10 “Delta Force” soldiers providing security.

-Sources close to the FBI investigation into the Benghazi attack informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this is focusing on three suspects with alleged ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist  network.

The first of the three suspects is known as “Juma”, a resident of the Libyan port city of Derna. He is reportedly a leading member of the Libyan Islamist “Ansar al-Sharia” militia that advocates the implementation of Islamic Sharia law across the country. This suspect is also reportedly a former detainee of Guantanamo Bay and is believed to have tried to contact Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He disappeared from Derna just days after the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

The second suspect is known as “Bu Kitf”, a former inmate of Gaddafi’s prisons and a leading member of the “17 February” battalion, which was responsible for providing security to the US consulate.

The third suspect is known as “Abu Ahmed”, also a former prison inmate released following the Egyptian revolution and the ouster of the Mubarak regime. The Americans believe that the Egyptian national sent a message to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri last July asking permission to form an Al Qaeda branch in Egypt.

-The source also revealed that the Egyptian authorities had failed to provide any information or cooperation with the Americans regarding this suspect. The Egyptian authorities failed to respond to an Asharq Al-Awsat request for comment on this issue.

-Barak Barfi, research fellow at the New America Foundation, stressed that “there was a significant failure in American security.” He added “I think that the Americans believe that Abu Ahmed is responsible for the explosion at the Benghazi consulate…with the participation of Libyans from the Ansar al-Sharia group.”

The three suspects mentioned in detail by Asharq Al-Awsat do not appear to have been part of the eight arrested in Libya.  The US State Department has identified Yemen based Ansar al-Sharia as an alternative name for Al Qaeda operating in the Arabian Peninsula.

Two suspects were also arrested trying to enter Turkey last week.  The suspects, identified as Tunisians, were detained late Wednesday as they attempted to enter the country with fake passports, Kanal D said.

Meanwhile, testimony continued this week before Congress on the circumstances leading up to the attack.

According to CBS News,  a State Department officer told House Committee panel members there were 13 separate specific threats made against the consulate during the six months before the attack. Those threats included a threat against both the Consulate and Ambassador Stevens made on Facebook. One post included mention of the route which Stevens took to jog each morning.

There were also two separate bombings on the consulate – one on April 6 (when two former security guards hurled improvised explosives at the building) and another on June 6.

Lt. Col. Andrew Wood told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that U.S. security was so weak that in April, only one U.S. diplomatic security agent was stationed in Benghazi.  Security Officer Eric Nordstrom also told committee members that repeated requests had been made for increased security, requests that were denied. He said his requests for more security were blocked by a department policy to “normalize operations and reduce security resources.” He stated that Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary for international programs, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low”.

It has been over a month since the attack, yet there has been no response as yet from the United States.

Three U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the U.S. military has the special-operations forces and other assets in place to begin going after individuals in Libya.

“At this point, the capabilities are in place,” one U.S. intelligence officer said. “The holdup is in Washington.”

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