U.S. officials: 3 nations hindering investigation
Few arrests made in fatal Sept. 11 attack on compound in Benghazi, Libya.
WAshIngTOn — U.S. counterterrorism officials told lawmakers Thursday that law enforcement in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia has been uncooperative or less-than-capable and is slowing the search for suspects in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya on Sept. 11.
Authorities in the region have not yet arrested many of the suspects the U.S. wants to question in the violent attack on the American compound in Benghazi, according to two U.S. officials briefed on a private House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, where counterterrorism, intelligence and law enforcement chiefs disclosed the information to lawmakers.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Egypt has arrested Egyptian Islamic Jihad member Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad for possible links to the attack, but key alQaida personnel remain free. They added that U.S. requests to go after the suspects unilaterally also have been rebuffed.
The officials said that Thursday’s hearing was intended to re-focus lawmakers’ discussions on finding those who carried out the attack. Until now, discussions had largely focused on how the White House described the attack in its aftermath and whether U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice played down al-Qaida’s possible role by blaming it on an angry mob.
The hearing comes a week before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton briefs lawmakers on an independent review of the attack by an accountability review board, led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering. Officials expect that the review will focus on security assessments done of the consulate before the attack, as well as the actions of the diplomatic security agents during it.
Three U.S. officials say the security team did not fire a single shot, as a crowd of militants and looters overwhelmed the compounds of the local Libyan security team.
The State Department agents lost track of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens during the incident, in the heavy smoke after the militants set fire to the building. Stevens was overcome by smoke and was later carried out of the damaged building by Libyans who took him to a local hospital where he apparently died from smoke inhalation.
U.S. intelligence has blamed the attack on militants from a number of different groups. Libyan officials could not be reached for comment.