Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades was possibly behind the U.S. consulate attack
A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday’s attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say.
They also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of a senior Libyan member of the terror group Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The group suspected to be behind the assault — the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades — first surfaced in May, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on the International Red Cross office in Benghazi. The following month the group claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device outside the U.S. Consulate, and later released a video of that attack.
Noman Benotman, once a leading member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and now based at the Quilliam Foundation in London told CNN, “An attack like this would likely have required preparation. This would not seem to be merely a protest which escalated.”
“According to our sources, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault; it is rare that an RPG7 is present at a peaceful protest,” Benotman said.
“According to our sources, the attack against the consulate had two waves. The first attack led to U.S. officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against U.S. officials after they were kept in a secure location.”
That analysis is supported by U.S. sources who say the attack on the consulate is believed to have been pre-planned. The sources say the attackers used the protest as a diversion to launch the attack, although the sources could not say if the attackers instigated the protest or merely took advantage of it.
Notably, the Brigades said the June 5 attack was also timed to coincide with preparations for the arrival of a senior U.S. State Department official.
“The time frame of attacks shows that the group has been following and actively involved in gathering information about the activities of diplomatic missions in the country,” Benotman wrote in a June briefing paper on the group.
He adds that it appears the Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades was also responsible for a rocket attack against the convoy of the British ambassador in Benghazi on June 11 and an attack against the Red Cross in Misrata on June 12.