Many people think that a series of violent protests on September 11, 2012 began in response to Innocence of Muslims, that millions of Muslims considered a sacrilegious video. First revolts against the American diplomatic mission broke out in Egypts capital and later spread across other diplomatic missions and locations including the city of Benghazi. According to Gladstone (2012), the main subject of protests was criticism of Islam and Prophet Muhammad in the blasphemous film about Muslims. The outrageous Islamic terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi remains the most significant event that has occurred against the special diplomatic mission in recent years leading to the deaths of four U.S. nationals and causing international repercussions worldwide.
At nightfall, September 11, 2012, the assaulters carried out the terrorist attack accompanied by blocking streets. Militants were using gun trucks of Ansar al-Sharia, a large group of Islamic combatants, who worked with local authorities to ensure security in the main city of the Eastern Lybia, Benghazi. In addition, Benghazi was the birthplace of uprisings that ousted Gadhafi after his dictatorship for forty-two years. According to Schemm and Michael (2012), over one hundred armed people with covered faces dressed in flak jackets and tunics of the Afghan-style were later reported as those, who participated in the attack. In January 2014, the U.S. Department of State listed Ansar al-Sharia with its leader Ahmed Abu Khattalah as a dangerous terrorist organization.
During the violent assault, Islamists used various weapons including mortars, rocket-propelled and hand grenades, NATO assault rifles, diesel cans, machine guns, artillery, and AK-47 (Margasak, 2012). Thus, a large group of heavily armed militants fired at the U.S. consulate, sparking fire in the building. Islamists killed the U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three Americas nationals during the attack. Stevens was the first ambassador to be assassinated on duty in the past thirty-five years. Most of the Libyas citizens condemned attackers and praised the late U.S. ambassador. Libyans staged peaceful public demonstrations throughout the country condemning militants, who were suspected of the violent attacks (Davies, 2012).
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In the USA, September 11, 2012 was a day of solemn remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attack launched by Al-Qaeda in 2001. In Libya, it was a day of violent attacks that ended with four Americas nationals assassinated. Initially, Obama and his administration considered that an angry crowd of people attacked consulate as a response to the American-made video that mocked the Prophet Mohammed and Islam in general. However, later, the storming of the U.S. mission was determined as terroristic assault conducted by Islamic extremists. Several American officials believed the Benghazi attack was planned in advance. It was clearly coordinated, and the film, in fact, did not prompt it.
Disputes about what exactly happened on September 11 in Benghazi still rage in the United States. After initially considering the assault as spontaneous, the American authorities now claim the attack was pre-planned. Libyan government thought that militants might have used protest against the United States as a cover for the attack. Moreover, the national security services could support and assist gunmen in the assault. However, officials pointed to the radical group Ansar al-Sharia as their prime suspect in the Benghazi attack. Later, this Islamist militia group denied their involvement. The majority suspected that the night attacks were timed to coincide with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City. Some believed that militants wanted to cover their violent actions using civilians, who were opposing the anti-Islam video.
The leader of operations unit Fathi al-Obeidi believed that the Benghazi attack was planned. He joined the assumptions of those officials who believed that experienced combatants generated hostility toward Americans. According to Al Shalchi (2012), the accuracy of the attack was too professional for any regular revolutionary. Other Libyas officials pointed to the possible involvement of the former militaries, who were still loyal to Islamist combatants and Gaddafis entourage, who fought in Afghanistan. The American officials described the attack on the consulate as complex. Several officials and eyewitnesses viewed the largely unarmed demonstration near the U.S. consulate, although some Islamist militants were detected (Al Shalchi, 2012).
Moreover, the Islamic militant organization Al-Qaeda took responsibility and declared that the attack was carried out in revenge for the Americas drone strike that killed Al-Qaedas leader in Libya, Abu Yahya al-Libi (Shmulovich, 2012). Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden and several other terrorists found Al-Qaeda over twenty years ago. However, nowadays, it has become the radical organization consisted of militants, who call for jihad and thorough interpretation of the Islamic law, Sharia. Moreover, the Islamist organization is well known for simultaneous bombings of various targets and violent suicide attacks.
However, the role of the film about the Muslim world in motivating the assault has become a part of ongoing disputes in the U.S. political arena. Many witnesses repeatedly reported that the video denigrating Muslims became the main reason to attack. Despite the fact that Libyas officials initially pointed to the presence of numerous protesters prior to the assault, Americas investigation later concluded that there were no protests before the Benghazi attack (Martin, 2012).
What I found interesting about the research was that nobody was arrested for the attack in Benghazi. However, the U.S. Administration has named some militant groups, who were believed to be involved in the Benghazi attack. One of them included the ex-prisoner of Guantanamo, Sufian bin Qumu, an alleged member of Al-Qaida. Officials identified him as a leader of the extremist group. In addition, the suspected radical groups were deemed as ideological terrorists behind the attacks on Washington and New York in 2001. However, at the present time officials of the State Department say they do not think that the main al-Qaida leaders organized the attack in 2012. In addition, the administration claims that they will do everything possible to bring extremists to justice eventually.
- Libya: Islamist militia bases stormed in Benghazi - BBC News
- Al-Qaeda affiliate claims killing of 14 Algerian soldiers | The Times of Israel
- Anti-American Protests Over Film Expand to Nearly 20 Countries - The New York Times
- Al-Qaeda indicates responsibility for killing US envoy in Libya, urges more attacks | The Times of Israel
- Press Releases - United States Department of State