After five weeks of investigation no evidence has been found that the attack on the US consulate in Libya was premeditated or linked to al-Qaeda, several US intelligence officials said while speaking on condition of anonymity.
The intelligence officials said the Sept. 11 attack that killed US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was most likely an opportunistic assault, rather than a prearranged operation, the Los Angeles Times reported.
After witnessing the violent reaction in Cairo to the controversial YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims”, the Libyan attackers reportedly decided to do damage to the nearby Benghazi US Embassy.
The attack was “carried out following a minimum amount of planning,” an official said. “The attackers exhibited a high degree of disorganization. Some joined the attack in progress, some did not have weapons and others just seemed interested in looting.”
President Barack Obama has been criticized for not calling the attack an act of terrorism soon enough. Opponents accused the president of holding back from that statement because a terrorist attack so soon before the election could harm his campaign.
Republicans emphasized the attack as the work of al-Qaeda and accused the Obama administration for security failures and trying to cover up the reason behind the assault.
The president, who initially called the attack a spontaneous reaction to the YouTube video, eventually changed his statement and called it an act of terror.
But five weeks after the investigation, it seems doubtful that al-Qaeda had any involvement in the offensive.
“There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance,” a second US official told the LA Times.
“The attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the US Embassy in Cairo,” he added.
A Libyan off-duty police sergeant who came to the scene of the attack said militants pulled their guns on him and told him that “the Americans were abusing our prophet.”
Other witnesses described a scene in which the attackers appeared to be civilians carrying weapons, as well as experienced fighters. The latest evidence points towards a violent reaction towards the anti-Islam video, while intelligence officials have been unable to find any connections with al-Qaeda, according to the LA Times.
The Obama administration has come under scrutiny for changing its stance on the reason behind the deadly assault. House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Peter King, released a letter to Obama Saturday urging the president to release the intelligence community reporting which led him to describe the attack as a spontaneous reaction to the film, as well as the information that led him to describe it as an act of terror.
King has requested intelligence agency transcripts, State Department radio traffic, emails, cables, instant messages, situation reports, intercepts and images that may have helped intelligence officials make conclusions about the situation.
The president has denied there was any confusion about the situation, but with new intelligence information that directly contradicts the second claim made by the Obama administration, the public appears to be more confused than ever.
The Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Libya left four Americans dead and marked the first time a US ambassador was killed in the line of duty since 1979. Attackers in Benghazi used rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, anti-aircraft weapons and assault rifles to engage in a five-hour gun battle in the diplomatic compound. The attack coincided with protests and attacks throughout the Arab world that came in response to the anti-Muslim YouTube video. Intelligence officials are still investigating the cause of the attack.