US probes '9/11 link' to deadly attack
on 13/09/2012 07:00:06
President Barack Obama declared that the US would "work with the Libyan government to bring to justice" those who killed Chris Stevens and three other Americans. It was the first killing of a US ambassador in more than 30 years.
The attack on the Benghazi consulate was "a planned, co-ordinated, well-executed military style event", House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers said.
Meanwhile, in a show of force, the Pentagon moved two warships to the Libyan coast. Officials said one destroyer, the USS Laboon, moved to a position off the coast yesterday and the destroyer USS McFaul was on its way and should be stationed off the coast within days, increasing the number of US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean from four to five.
Officials said the ships, which carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, do not have a specific mission, but they give commanders flexibility to respond to any mission ordered by the president.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said: "Without commenting on specific ship movements, the United States military regularly takes precautionary steps when potential contingencies might arise in a given situation. That's not only logical in certain circumstances, it's the prudent thing to do."
At the same time, around 50 US Marines headed to Libya to reinforce security at US diplomatic buildings, initially at the American embassy in Tripoli.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said it was too early to judge whether the Benghazi attack was planned.
"I know that this is being investigated, and we're working with the Libyan government to investigate the incident. I would not want to speculate on that at this time," he said. Several Libyan security guards were also killed.
Michigan Republican Mr Rogers said US intelligence had not yet determined who was responsible, but added: "Our list is narrowing.
"When you see (such an attack), it wasn't some folks who had some guns in their garage and said, 'Let's shoot up the consulate'."
The FBI was sending evidence teams to Libya, a law enforcement official said.
Analysts are working on several different scenarios based on intelligence that could lead to a motive for the attack. Some concern the possibility of targeting high-ranking officials, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. But none of the intelligence has suggested terrorists would specifically target Mr Stevens, the official added.
The attack in Libya, which came hours after a mob stormed the US embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag, was presumed to have been triggered by a film, whose trailer has gone viral on YouTube, depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed in disrespectful ways.
In an extraordinary move, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called anti-Islamic preacher Terry Jones and asked him to stop promoting the film. A spokeswoman said the church would not show the film.
"Make no mistake. Justice will be done," a sombre Mr Obama pledged at the White House, with secretary of state Hillary Clinton at his side.
He ordered increased security at US diplomatic missions overseas, particularly in Libya, and said he condemned "in the strongest possible terms the outrageous and shocking" attack.
Mrs Clinton said she was particularly appalled that the attack took place in Benghazi, which the US had helped liberate from dictator Muammar Gaddafi during the Arab Spring revolution in Libya last year.
Three Americans were wounded, US officials said.
The aftermath of the two attacks also stirred the US presidential campaign, where until yesterday, foreign policy had taken a back seat to the struggling economy.
Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton made a rare joint visit to the US State Department in Washington, where grieving colleagues of Mr Stevens and the other three Americans killed in Benghazi gathered in a courtyard. The president also ordered US flags to be flown at half-mast at government and military buildings and vessels around the world until sunset on September 16.
Mrs Clinton condemned those who might kill over an insulting movie.
"There is no justification for this," she said. "None. Violence like this is no way to honour religion or faith and as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace."
Underscoring the administration's frustration, Mrs Clinton wondered aloud about the attack in Benghazi, which Gaddafi had once threatened to destroy.
"This is not easy," she said. "Today, many Americans are asking, indeed I asked myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, just how confounding, the world can be."
Mr Stevens, a 52-year-old career diplomat, was killed after he became separated from other American officials during the consulate attack. It is unclear when he died. He was taken by Libyans to a hospital, and his remains were delivered hours later to US officials at the Benghazi airport.
He is the first US ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979, when Adolph Dubs was killed in Afghanistan.
Three other Americans were also killed and the State Department identified one of them as Sean Smith, an air force veteran who had worked as an information management officer for 10 years in posts such as Brussels, Baghdad and Pretoria.
The identities of the others were being withheld while relatives were being informed.