Little Progress in FBI Benghazi Investigation: Suspects, Including a Former Gitmo Detainee, Still At Large
The day after the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks President Obama said: “Make no mistake. We will work with the Libyan government to bring justice to the killers who attacked our people.” But, more than seven months later, there are no indictments and no arrests. According to a House Republican Conference report on the Benghazi attacks, FBI investigators have made “very little progress.”
In fact, the only one who has actually been apprehended and locked up is the filmmaker who, it was determined, was not responsible for inciting the violence in Benghazi. Meanwhile, the actual suspects are still at large.
Sufyan Ben Qumu, is believed to have been involved and may be the ringleader of the attacks. Qumu has been recently spotted in Libya. Released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007 Qumu was then transferred into Libyan custody on the condition he be kept in jail. He was released, however, by the Qaddafi regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008. One of the suspects in the attack was detained in Tunisia but was released before he could be captured or questioned by U.S. investigators.
The FBI recently released images of three individuals who were on the grounds of the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi when it was attacked in September. The images are of men who may be able to provide information to help the FBI’s investigation. Additionally, a webpage was launched by the FBI in order to solicit tips in the region. Also provided is a companion Facebook page which is in Arabic. The webpage, fbi.gov/benghazi, includes images, tip forms, and posters in Arabic and English, as well as an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for submissions of confidential information to investigators. The site also includes a video featuring an Arabic speaker soliciting tips from the region.
A source told Fox News, however, that the government is “sitting on” information. “We basically don’t want to upset anybody, and the problem is, if Ambassador Stevens’ family knew that we were sitting on information about the people who killed their son, their brother, on and on, then, and we could look them as a government in the face, then we’re messing up. We’re messing up.” the source said.
Fox News spoke exclusively with one special operator who watched the events unfold in real time and has debriefed those who were part of the response:
“He remains anonymous for his safety and has decided to talk because he says he and others connected with the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi are frustrated with the excuses and lack of a military response since Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
‘We have all the capability, all the training, all the capacity, to kill and capture not only terrorists involved, with the specific events of 9/11, and Ambassador Stevens’ death, but terrorists that are feeding other regions including Europe that could eventually affect our national security in the short term,’ the source said. ‘And we’re not talking midterm or long-term, this is the short-term.’
Another threat is a larger terrorist haven that continues to build in parts of Libya and North Africa. Those working the region in the interest of U.S. security say the ball is being dropped by top leaders at the White House, Pentagon and State Department.
‘The analysts, the intelligence experts all say the same thing, that if we just ignore the situation as it presents itself, eventually it will be another invasion will have to take place for us to eventually turn the tide.’”
The group the FBI is pursuing is Ansar al Sharia, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Ansar al-Sharia means “Partisans of Islamic law” in Arabic. The terrorist organization was formed by AQAP in response to the growing youth movement in Yemen, which has marginalized Salafi-jihadists who support the violent overthrow of the government and the establishment of an Islamic state.
Ansar al Sharia remains active in Benghazi, operating patrols and checkpoints. According to military officials it is also working in collusion with other Islamist groups, allowing it to operate openly. The group, “continues to spread its ideology in the Benghazi area, particularly targeting youth,” said one official, who acknowledged that the lack of central government security was the why the militia is able to thrive.
In terms of apprehending the suspects, Deputy chief of Mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, told the House Oversight Committee at Wednesday’s hearing on Benghazi, that the administration’s claims regarding an impromptu protest in Benghazi (which were in direct contradiction to statements made by Libyan prime minister Mohammed al-Magarief) hampered the FBI’s investigation by breeding resistance from Libyan authorities. Also problematic is that when asked whether he had been interviewed by the FBI in the course of its investigation, Hicks said that he had not. Hicks explained that the FBI was delayed in getting to the consulate and that evidence had not been secured.
Susan Rice’s description of the attack as spontaneous, “made achieving the objective of getting the FBI to Benghazi very, very difficult,” Hicks said.