BEIRUT

Middle East

Libya blames Ansar al-Shariah for deadly Benghazi attack

Libyan soldiers stand to attention during a military display in Libya's coastal city of Benghazi on May 15, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/ABDULLAH DOMA)

TRIPOLI: The Libyan government blamed Islamist militants of the Ansar al-Shariah group for an attack Friday on the government security forces headquarters in Benghazi that killed eight people and wounded 15.

“Armed brigades, including those called Ansar al-Shariyah and other criminal groups, attacked with light and heavy weapons the security headquarters in Benghazi,” a government statement said. 

The dead were soldiers and police officers, according to army officials. Huge explosions could be heard during an early-morning firefight that lasted more than an hour. Special forces later secured the headquarters, near the city center.

The bodies of two soldiers who were kidnapped by militants during the attack, were found later bearing signs of torture, according to a medical source.

Libya’s central government is struggling to control armed groups, militias and brigades of former rebels who helped oust longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and refuse to disarm.

Special forces have often clashed with Ansar al-Shariah in Benghazi, which is Libya’s second-largest city and dominates the volatile east.

Car bombings and assassinations of soldiers and police officers have become common in Benghazi, where a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed minibus outside a special forces camp Tuesday, killing two people and wounding two others.

Most countries have closed their consulates in the city and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there since the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an Islamist attack in September 2012.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was slapped with a subpoena by Congress’s main oversight panel Friday, demanding that he testify about how the Obama administration responded to the attack.

House Government Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa announced the subpoena in a tweet, saying he required that Kerry testify on May 21.

“It is because the State Department has failed to meet its legal obligations that I have issued a subpoena to Secretary Kerry,” Issa wrote.

The move comes after a conservative group Wednesday published a White House email that it had obtained via a legal challenge and which critics said shows an attempt to put a political spin on the assault.

In the email – sent three days after the assault – Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told Susan Rice – at the time U.S. envoy to the United Nations – to blame the attack on local anger in Benghazi over an anti-Muslim Internet video.

It has since become clear that the attack on the mission, which cost the lives of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, was planned by armed militants.

Republicans including Issa have argued that the White House misled Americans about what happened, particularly in the weeks after the attack, which occurred at the height of the presidential race won by incumbent Obama. 

 

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Summary

The Libyan government blamed Islamist militants of the Ansar al-Shariah group for an attack Friday on the government security forces headquarters in Benghazi that killed eight people and wounded 15 .

Special forces have often clashed with Ansar al-Shariah in Benghazi, which is Libya's second-largest city and dominates the volatile east.

Car bombings and assassinations of soldiers and police officers have become common in Benghazi, where a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed minibus outside a special forces camp Tuesday, killing two people and wounding two others.

Most countries have closed their consulates in the city and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there since the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an Islamist attack in September 2012 .

It has since become clear that the attack on the mission, which cost the lives of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, was planned by armed militants.


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