February 17th Brigade in Benghazi also Al-Qaeda
December 15, 2012 • 10:10AM

According to Joan Neuhaus Schaan, a fellow in Homeland Security and Terrorism at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston, the February 17th Brigade, which provided security for the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, was founded by Ismail Sallabi, who is a known member of al Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). A Brookings Doha Center policy briefing dated May 2012, entitled "Libyan Islamists Unpacked: Rise, Transformation, and Future," also reports that Sallabi heads the February 17th Brigade based in Benghazi.

This means that the group that led the attack on the mission, Ansar al-Sharia, led by Abu Sufian bin Qumu, a former Al-Qaeda Guantanomo detainee; the Libya Shield, which met the marines who came from Tripoli at the airport and accompanied them to the CIA annex, led by Wisam ben Hamid, identified by the Library of Congress as possibly the head of Al-Qaeda in Libya; and the February 17th Brigade, which provided security for the mission, led by Ismail Sallabi, were all Al-Qaeda and LIFG.

In fact, the LIFG officially merged with Al-Qaeda in 2007.

On Sept. 16, 2011 the Guardian identified Sallabi as the head of the Benghazi military council, the counterpart to the Tripoli military council led by Abul Hakim Balhadj, the emir of the LIFG. According to Al Arabiya News, the commander of the February 17 brigade is Fawzi Bukatif.

According to al-Hayat, Balhadj was in Benghazi in April 2011, where he helped organize the February 17 Brigade. Included in the security force for the Benghazi mission proper were four members of the February 17 Brigade, described by a State Department source as "a friendly militIa which has basically been deputized by the Libyan government to serve as our security, our host government security." A further 16 militia members were part of the quick reaction security team based at the CIA compund described as the mission's "annex."

Ismaeil al-Sallabi (who is the brother of Libya's leading Islamist, Ali al-Sallabi) also leads the Martyr Rafalllah Sahati Brigade, which began as a batallion of the February 17 Brigade. The Brigade's commander, Shaykh Muhammad al-Garabi met with U.S. officials on Sept. 9 along with Wisam ben Hamid of the Libya Shield.

In the September 11, 2012, unclassified memo sent from the U.S. Embassy under the signature of Ambassador Stevens, it reports that Wisam ben Hamid and al-Garabi told U.S. officials that if the Muslim Brotherhood candidate for Prime Minister, Alwad al Barasi, should win, he would appoint the commander of the February 17th Brigade, Fawzi Bukatif, as Minister of Defense. "Bukatif's appointment," the memo says, "would open the MOD and other security ministries and offices to plum appointments for his most favored brigade commanders — giving February 17 and Libya Shield tacit control of the armed forces."