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Libya attack: US doubts that Al Qaeda planned ahead (+video)

UN Ambassador Susan Rice said Sunday she doubts the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a pre-planned Al Qaeda operation that could have been detected. As protests to an anti-Islam video continued, some knowledgeable lawmakers aren't so sure.

By Staff writer / September 16, 2012

Afghans burn the American flag in Herat, Afghanistan, Sunday during a protest against an Internet video mocking the Prophet Muhammad that many fear could further aggravate Afghan-U.S. relations.

Hoshang Hashimi/AP

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US officials are moving away from the theory that Al Qaeda or some other terrorist group planned and carried out a coordinated attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last week.

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The violent protest in the wake of an anti-Islam YouTube video "seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons," UN Ambassador Susan Rice said Sunday, noting that rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons are easily obtained in Libya following the fall of Muammar Qaddafi.

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday,” Ambassador Rice asserted that the US had no “actionable intelligence” that might have alerted officials to the attack in Benghazi, which killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel.

That’s a key point, addressing at least indirectly the question of whether State Department and Defense Department assets could have been deployed to protect or remove US diplomatic personnel in Benghazi before the ultimately deadly protest occurred.

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Forty-eight hours before the protests in Cairo and Benghazi, US intelligence officials sent a cable to the embassy in Egypt warning of the YouTube video and the reaction it might cause, according to a CNN report, but the cable was not sent to the embassy in Tripoli, Libya or the consulate in Benghazi. Like many US diplomatic outposts, the Benghazi consulate relied on local security forces.

Whether or not it was Al Qaeda per se, the organization has cooperated with terrorist groups worldwide including “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group,” according to GlobalSecurity.org. In a 2008 cable made public by WikiLeaks, Ambassador Stevens described the Libyan port city of Derna (in the eastern part of the country, as is Benghazi) as "a wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters" for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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