Sunday, September 16, 2012

US officials intercepted communications that linked al-Qaida to consulate attack

    Sunday, September 16, 2012   No comments

by Chris Stepheni

The president of Libya's parliament, Mohamed al-Magariaf, has said military action is being considered against militants blamed for the killing of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens.

Magariaf also confirmed reports from Washington that US officials intercepted communications discussing the planned attack on the UN consulate in Benghazi, which he said linked al-Qaida in the Magreb to an Islamist brigade, Ansar al-Sharia. "Yes, that happened," he said.

Magariaf told the Guardian the intercepts matched other evidence indicating members of the brigade took part in Tuesday's all-night assault on the compound and an accommodation site.

"It seems there is a division within Ansar al-Sharia about this attack, some for participation, some against," he said. "We are in the process of investigation."

Such transmissions would be powerful evidence linking al-Sharia to the attack, and Magariaf said Libya had been passed the information by the US government. He confirmed that the intercepted communications discussed the timing of last week's assault.

But he urged the US not to act unilaterally, fearing it would antagonise public opinion.

"We will not hesitate to act, to do what is our duty," Magariaf said. "Let us start first by ourselves and if we are not capable then, whoever can help us. My experience with the Americans, they know what they have to do."

His comments came as Libya's interior ministry said weekend raids had led to the arrest of 50 suspects, but it gave no details or said whether they were Islamist militants.

Tension is building in Benghazi amid speculation that military action is imminent against the al-Sharia brigade, whose commanders deny responsibility for the consulate attack.

Two US warships equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles are stationed off the coast and a propeller-driven aircraft with no lights, thought to be a drone, has spent several hours in the skies above the city for the past two nights.


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