The Wall Street Journal reported late Friday, Sept. 14, that U.S. officials are studying intercepts between leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and members of the Ansar al-Sharia group believed to have carried out the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, Sept. 11. "U.S. officials are investigating indications that a local group of Libyan militants held a series of conversations Tuesday with al-Qaeda extremists about the assault that day on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, in the first sign of possible coordination in the attack between local fighters and the global terrorist movement," the Journal's Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous reported. The Journal quoted a former U.S. official saying "The way AQIM has been discussing this strongly suggests they were involved in the plotting."
Today, a new statement was issued by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, claiming that the killing of Ambassador Stevens was in revenge for the U.S. drone assassination of the organization's number two, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in Pakistan in June. Al-Libi was Libyan, and had been captured following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and held at the Bagram Air Base near Kabul until he allegedly escaped and rejoined Al Qaeda. He was a founder of the Libyan Al Qaeda affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
According to a senior U.S. intelligence official al-Libi did not escape, but was turned over to the Saudi Arabian government. Al-Libi was put through the Saudi interior ministry's "terrorist rehabilitation" program and freed. He soon returned to Al Qaeda and rapidly emerged as one of the group's most militant leaders.
Another suspected member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Sufyan bin-Qumu, is the head of the Ansar al-Sharia group believed to have carried out the heavily-armed paramilitary assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday. According to documents released by Wikileaks, bin-Qumu was in the Libyan Army for a dozen years, and was jailed for drug trafficking and rape. He escaped from Libyan prison, went to Sudan and linked up with Osama bin Laden. From Sudan, he went to Kabul in the mid-1990s, where he worked for the Saudi "charity," the Al Wafa Organization, which was identified by both the United Nations Security Council and the U.S. State Department as a fundraising front for Al Qaeda. Soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, bin-Qumu was captured in Pakistan and shipped in early 2002 to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He remained in the detention center there for five years. He was shipped back to Libya in September 2007 and briefly imprisoned, until he was freed in some kind of deal between Qaddafi and the Islamic militants.
When the rebellion against Qaddafi began in early 2011, bin-Qumu surfaced as a leader of the Darnah Brigade (Darnah is a city in eastern Libya, which is the largest single recruiting ground for suicide bombers, according to a recent study by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point), made up largely of Libyans who had fought in Afghanistan during the period of the Taliban rule in the 1990s.
Amazingly, on April 24, 2011, the New York Times published a profile of bin-Qumu, under the headline "Libyan, Once a Detainee, Is Now a U.S. Ally of Sorts." The Times profile concluded that the Libyan rebels deny any links to Al Qaeda, and so far the Americans are willing to believe them. One U.S. official was quoted, "We're more worried about Al Qaeda infiltration from outside than the indigenous ones. Most of them have a local agenda so they don't present as much as a threat to the West."