November 13, 2012
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Who Attacked the American Consulate in Benghazi!
November 13, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
On September 11, 2012 a violent, unruly mob attacked the American Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi and an adjacent location and burnt these to ashes. It was the most gruesome act of terrorism in the wake of Arab Spring now spreading across the Middle East and dismantling the authoritarian regimes and replacing them with the popularly elected governments.
The attack came in retaliation to the blasphemous movie against the prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad. During the attack there were 7 Americans including the ambassador present in the Consulate. The brutal attack took a toll of four Americans including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Ambassador Stevens was quite popular in Libya for his outreach to the people and plans to rebuild the educational, health and similar institutions. He was a man with exemplary dedication and immense merit besides being a competent, modest and unassuming person. As ill luck would have it, Ambassador Stevens had come from Tripoli to Benghazi at that time to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital.
Although the outrage by the Muslims was universal on the making and screening of the movie yet it was only in Libya that it turned bloody and violent entailing the loss of four precious lives that were in no way connected with the movie. Besides the American citizens there were Libyans security staff members and others who were also injured in that ransacking onslaught.
High level investigations by various agencies are underway to determine and discover the identities of the front line assailants. However it would be worthwhile to mull over this terrible incident in order to infer who could have mounted such daring murderous attacks on two diplomatic locations on the spur of the moment.
Or was it a pre-planned insidious plan and patent conspiracy to target the American diplomatic mission behind the cover of sacrilegious film about the apostle of Islam? Elsewhere in the world, there were huge protests and even the embassies were surrounded as in Egypt. Yet the rampaging and killing of the staff did not take place. It was therefore, a very unusual happening in Libya not to be taken lightly.
On September 28 the American intelligence reported that “it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate."After the end of Gaddafi rule in Libya, the country has remained in most unstable situation both politically and administratively.
It might take a few years before a genuine and stable democratic system can be established. It would take a considerable longer time for the government to restore law and order by subduing the local divergent and disparate tribal lords, fiefdoms and Gaddafi loyalists.
Most of these tribal chiefs were given financial aid and were loyal to Gaddafi regime. Also the neighboring Mali, Chad, Niger and Mauritania were client and surrogate states of Libya. During the anti Gaddafi civil war (February to October 2011) the fighters and volunteers from these countries formed formidable fighting force in favor of the Gaddafi regime.
Between 125 and 150 gunmen with masked faces that attacked the consulate in the darkness looked like Islamic militants, They were equipped with “rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 and FN F2000 NATO assault rifles, diesel canisters, mortars, and heavy machine guns and artillery mounted on gun trucks”. The organized way these assailants closed the access roads, carried with them the lethal arms and gasoline canisters provides incontrovertible proof that they had come to ransack and burn the consulate building.
In all probability there could be three factions to be presumably held responsible for this heinous and unwarranted crime. In the first instance the making of the film, “the Innocence of the Muslims” produced by one Sam Bacile was a dirty work of an individual for which the American administration or any official agency was not involved.
There could be general protests but to target the consulate with lethal assault weapons could not be justified. It could not be carried out by the ordinary Libyans. The Libyans national and security staff helped the consulate staff in rescuing the ambassador and other staff members. Some of the Libyans were even injured in bracing against the assailants.
Although the assault was highly organized and meticulously conducted, yet by all indications it was spontaneous. Now let us take up the three factions and sort out which one could be held accountable for that diabolic crime. Now the Al-Qaida that apparently seems to be main culprit could not come out so publicly to continue the assault for the whole night till the day break.
The reason is that this terrorist group was totally decimated and dismantled by Gaddafi as it also posed a great danger to his regime. Al-Qaida has been totally in oblivion and dysfunctional in Libya for all these years ever since its inception. For them to assemble a coterie of hardcore group of anti-American miscreants with perfect use of the modern weapons was not possible.
They know that by exposing themselves they would be identified and picked up and face the wrath of both Libyan and American administrations. This callous outfit prefers to operate clandestinely. They could at best resort to suicide bombing or limited terrorist operations but not of this magnitude and so openly.
Also for the ordinary Muslims who have been living under a very oppressive rule for ages could not become ferocious fighter all of a sudden and have access or possession of artillery mounted gun trucks and rocket propelled grenades etc. If at all the Libyans were venting their anger and outrage on the denigration of their beloved and most revered prophet, they could hold huge rallies and processions in peaceful manners.
To besiege the embassy was a highly professional and technical task that could not be attributed to ordinary citizens all the more during the night. So it should be the third group that could have carried this prolonged assault and that was capable of handling the heavy weaponry used solely by the professional and highly trained soldiers in traditional military combats.
Now let us recall that during the civil war, the Libyan Armed Forces, Libyan Air Force, paramilitary forces, pro-Gaddafi tribes and foreign mercenaries were fighting against the national liberation army, Free Libyan air force, anti-regime rebel, tribes and militias. Even after the civil war, a low-level insurgency by Gaddafi loyalists still continued for some time.
Understandably therefore, the supporters of the present regime who were erstwhile anti-Gaddafi fighters could not resort to such an attack as it would be enormously counterproductive to the incumbent political set up. It would be out of question that they could harm and antagonize the Americans by whose prodigious support Gaddafi was ousted.
The General National Congress of Libya is the legislative authority of Libya. Mohamed Yousaf el-Magariaf as its president is also the head of the state since August 2012. The affiliates and adherents of this party cannot harm Americans although Magariaf has good relations with the Muslim brotherhood. President Magariaf was in exile in United States for 30 years.
In conclusion and after sifting and evaluating all the aspects, the underground pro Gaddafi elements could have carried out the attack on American consulate in Benghazi. The video might have given a rare chance to them to storm the consulate as a kind of revenge for the death of Gaddafi and end of his regime.
They might have conjectured that with such brazen act they could win the sympathies of the fanatic Muslims and whip up anti-American sentiment, as it was for the sake of honor of their prophet. Also with this attack they could prove the incumbent government as incompetent to protect the Americans in Libya. But they failed in achieving any of these objectives as the government and the Libyans condemned this barbarity.
The American administration’s response to this wanton act of sabotage, terrorism and violence was measured, sagacious and composed. The Obama administration emphatically declared to punish the culprits but did not resort to the knee jerk reaction. The American administration wanted to find out and rightly so as to how it happened and who was responsible for this colossal crime.
The pro Gaddafi members of the Libyan armed forces and the tribes, militias and mercenaries loyal to the ousted regime are present in Libya. They could be in possession of large caches of all brands of weapons. They would keep looking for such similar chances of sabotage, violence and attacks.
With American support, the new Libyan administration, need to launch a campaign to search for the weapons and also the pro Gaddafi mercenaries and militias. The tracing and catching the perpetrators of attack on US Consulate in Benghazi can be the first step towards that imperative goal.