Libyan officials name Ansar al Sharia leader as commander of Benghazi attack: Reports


A picture shows damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame.



Libyan authorities said that an investigation into last month's assault on the US consulate in Benghazi has identified the leader of a militant group as the commander of the attack, The New York Times reported.

Witnesses of the Sept. 11 attack reported having seen Ahmed Abu Khattala, the founder of the Islamist group Ansar al Shaira, or "Partisans of Islamic Law," on the premises directing the attack, the Times reported. The group operates independently of al Qaeda, the Times wrote, though it espouses the sam "puritanism and militancy."

The Wall Street Journal reported that Khattala remains at large, while Ansar al Sharia denies any role in the attack.

"The officials' allegations provide the most direct link so far between the assaults and Abu Khattalah's militia," the Journal wrote.

Last week, the Libyan army blockaded Ansar al Sharia, which was then believed to have been responsible for the attack, in a remote region in eastern Libya. But army commanders said they lacked the resources to capture the militiamen. According to the Guardian, Ansar al Sharia was ejected from Benghazi and Derna by protesters in late September.

More from GlobalPost: Libyan army blockades Ansar al-Sharia militia, suspected of killing US ambassador

The FBI has been investigating the September attack on the US consulate from Tripoli, some 400 miles west of Benghazi.

The attack and the handling of its aftermath have become matters of relentless political argument over the past month, undoubtedly motivated by election-year pressures. Disputes have focused most on establishing whether the incident was a terror attack, and whether the Obama administration ignored requests for additional security in Benghazi.

In fact, requests for additional security in advance of the attack were made by the US Embassy in Tripoli, not the consulate in Benghazi, The New York Times reported last week.