US Marines Headed To Libya To Enforce Security
US Sends MarinesTo Libya After Ambassador’s Killing
Bill Van Auken
The Obama administration has dispatched an elite unit of Marine special forces to Libya after the killing of the US ambassador and three other US personnel in the storming of the American consulate in Benghazi Tuesday.
The killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the first such killing of a US envoy since the death of Washington’s ambassador to Afghanistan in 1979, together with the breaching the walls of the US embassy in Cairo by Islamist demonstrators, touched off bitter political recriminations in Washington.
The Libyan attack is by all appearances a case of the chickens coming home to roost. Ambassador Stevens was himself very much involved in executing a policy that culminated in his own demise. The war for “regime change” that ended with the lynch-mob murder of former leader Muammar Gaddafi last October was prosecuted by means of US-NATO bombardment and the arming, training and financing of “rebels” that included Islamist elements closely connected to Al Qaeda. Now it appears that these same elements have killed Stevens.
While designed to install a puppet government subordinate to the interests of Washington and the Western oil companies and to teach China a lesson as to who runs North Africa, the war has produced what in the parlance of the intelligence services is known as blowback.
No doubt a contributing factor to Tuesday’s bloody events is the fact that the US-NATO war has brought no benefit to masses of Libyans, who are increasingly embittered over the devastation of their country.
Both the incidents in Benghazi and Cairo, together with smaller demonstrations in Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco and the Gaza Strip, were ostensibly in response to a provocative, rabidly anti-Muslim film produced in the US. A trailer for the amateurish and cartoon-like video, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” was posted on YouTube in July, and more recently was dubbed in Arabic and became more widely known after being denounced on an Egyptian television program.
Initially an individual describing himself as Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real estate developer in California, claimed he had made the video to “expose” Islam. It later appeared, however, that no such person exists. Promoted by Christian right elements, the film appears to have been designed precisely to provoke violent confrontations.
The sequence of events in Benghazi remains somewhat murky. Initial reports attributed the attack to a militia known as the Ansar al-Sharia brigade, but the group has denied involvement.
Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif, tried to pin the blame on supporters of Gaddafi, but also suggested that the Americans were responsible for their own fate for not heeding previous warnings of attacks by Al Qaeda. “It was necessary that they take precautions,” he told AFP. “It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions.”
The New York Times Wednesday cited US officials as suggesting that the death of Stevens was not merely the accidental byproduct of spontaneous protest. “Indications suggest the possibility that an organized group had either been waiting for an opportunity to exploit like the protests over the video or perhaps even generated the protests as a cover for their attack,” the Times reported.
As many as 80 militiamen, armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and 14.5mm anti-aircraft machine guns took part in the assault, a Libyan reporter told the BBC.
Others have suggested that the attack, carried out on September 11, may have been the work of Al Qaeda-linked elements seeking revenge for the US drone assassination of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the Libyan-born Al Qaeda leader killed in June in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.
Sharif said that two of the slain Americans died as US security forces flown in from the capital of Tripoli tried to evacuate US personnel from a safe house in Benghazi, where they had been taken during the attack on the consulate.
“It was supposed to be a secret place, and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting,” Sharif told Reuters, suggesting that the attackers had good intelligence on US operations in the city.
Ambassador Stevens and another member of the US consular staff were killed in the attack on the consulate. Libyan authorities said that Stevens died of asphyxiation, apparently resulting from fires ignited by rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs. The consulate was left gutted and looted.
Speaking from the Rose Garden Wednesday morning, Obama emphasized that “the US is working with the Libyan government to bring the attackers to justice.”
He did not spell out what form “justice” would take. The White House ordered 50 members of the elite Marine special forces unit known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) to Libya. This may be only the first elements of a larger US intervention. A senior administration official told reporters Wednesday, “The Department of Defense is ready to respond with additional military measures, as directed by the president.”
The Pentagon is also redeploying US warships off the Libyan coast. The destroyer USS Laboon moved to a position off the Libyan coast Wednesday, while the USS McFaul is reportedly en route. Both ships carry Tomahawk missiles, which they could fire at targets on land.
Libyan officials also reported that US drones regularly fly over the North African country.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued her own statement Wednesday, expressing perplexity over the attack. “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate in a city we helped save from destruction?,” she said. “This question reflects just how complicated, and at times how confounding the world can be.”
Clinton could have answered her own question by spelling out the criminal and filthy methods that Washington employed to “liberate” Libya.
The loss of Stevens, a high-level US Middle East operative, was clearly a blow. Fluent in Arabic, he had served in various parts of the region in mid-level embassy positions, such as political section chief in Jerusalem, political officer in Damascus, consular/political officer in Cairo and consular/economic officer in Riyadh. Dispatched to Libya in 2007, he was first listed as “chargé d’Affaires” and then deputy chief of mission. Secret cables published by WikiLeaks show he held frequent meetings with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whom he once described an “engaging and charming interlocutor.”
Then in March of last year, barely a week before the US and NATO launched their war for regime change in Libya, Stevens was named US “liaison to the opposition” and dispatched with a US team to Benghazi. A State Department spokesman said he would “explore ways to open funding spigots for an opposition movement.”
In this military intervention, Washington and its European, Saudi and Qatari allies provided arms, training and heavy air support for the so-called rebels, which included significant numbers of Islamist fighters, some of whom had worked with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq. If the attack on the consulate was carried out by these elements, the US ambassador and the other Americans were likely killed with arms and ammunition supplied by NATO.
Islamist militias continue to wield substantial power in Libya after elections held in July. Libya’s interim government is incapable of disarming the various armed groups or imposing its authority. In recent weeks heavily armed militiamen have brought in bulldozers to demolish shrines and mosques belonging to the Sufi branch of Islam in Tripoli, and other cities, sparking clashes that left several people dead and wounded.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement late Tuesday night declaring his outrage over the attacks in Libya and Egypt and stating, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
Romney was referring to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Egypt hours before thousands of demonstrators gathered outside, scaling its walls and hauling down the US flag, which was replaced with the black banner favored by Islamist groups. The statement, which condemned “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the feelings of Muslims,” aimed to pre-empt the protest. The embassy also reportedly called Egypt’s Salafist Nour Party, relaying this message and asking them to call off the demonstration.
In an interview with CBS, Obama responded that Romney’s criticism was indicative of a “tendency to shoot first and aim later.”
Beneath the superficial political attacks, there are no doubt deeper concerns within the American ruling elite over the implications of a US policy of “regime change” carried out by backing Islamist forces in both Libya and Syria, destabilizing the entire Middle East in the process.
Officials believe embassy attack in Libya may have been coordinated
WASHINGTON – Intelligence experts and U.S. government officials are starting to view the attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi as a coordinated attack.
Sources, including officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, are discussing the possibility that it was a planned operation, and some say several developments seem to support the possibility.
The incident does not appear to be a random mob scene, but rather an opportunity that militants seized, sources say. The attackers used a rocket-propelled grenade, a weapon not traditionally carried by protesters, but commonly used by terrorists.
The attack is believed to have come in two waves. The first wave got inside of the compound, and a second wave penetrated a secure location inside the building. This development raises questions about how the attackers knew the location of that secure facility, sources say.
On Sept. 11, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri put out a video eulogizing Abu Yahya al-Libi, an Islamist terrorist and high-ranking al-Qaida member, who was killed in a drone attack in June. Sources have said they believe the Libyan incident might have been revenge for the death of al-Libi.
The embassy was housed in a local building that had been contracted temporarily. It was not an “Inman” compound, which is a building designed with certain security protocols, such as “standoff” distances between the public street and the actual facility.
Fred Burton, a former diplomatic security agent at the State Department, says it is the host country’s responsibility to provide adequate security for all diplomats inside their country.
“One of the more problematic events that you can ever deal with is a large mob that overtakes a facility,” Burton says. “You never see that in the U.S. simply because we have adequate police presence and can set up perimeters and keep rolling out the resources to counter that kind of event taking place.”
Burton was one of the first diplomatic security agents to staff the diplomatic security service when it began. He was one of the first agents to go to Libya to investigate hijackings of planes and kidnappings of westerners in the early 1980s.
Burton says it is unclear where Stevens was killed.
“Was he killed coming back to the mission or was he trying to exit the mission? Was he trying to exit the safe house that’s now into play? There are a lot of unknown factors here,” he says.
“You may have had a situation that deteriorated so rapidly that a snap decision was made to load up the ambassador, and ‘Let’s get the hell out of dodge,’ and they just vacated and ran into a situation where you had a perimeter set up and RPGs were fired into the limo as it was departing,” he says.
The president has ratcheted up security at embassies worldwide because of the incident.
Marines headed to Libya to reinforce security
By ROBERT BURNS
AP National Security Writer
WASHINGTON _ Some 50 U.S. Marines headed to Libya on Wednesday to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in the aftermath of an attack in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, officials said.
The Marines are members of an elite group known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, or FAST, whose role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to reinforce security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide. The contingent that was dispatched to Libya was based in Spain.
The officials who disclosed the plan to send the Marines spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The Marines were headed initially to the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, not to Benghazi.
Several officials said the U.S. military was making no other moves to deploy troops, ships or aircraft in response to TuesdayÂ’s attack. A second Marine FAST element was standing by in Spain but had no orders to move, officials said.
U.S. embassies, particularly in major countries and in unstable or less secure nations, usually have a resident contingent of Marine security guards. Early indications were that there were not at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. A consulate is a branch office in major cities outside the capital. These guards work under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at an embassy.
The main role of Marine security guards is to protect classified national security documents, according to the website of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, which administers the security guard mission from a Marine base in Virginia. Their secondary role is to protect U.S. citizens and U.S. government property in the event of an emergency.
The Marines began their security guard mission in 1948. They are trained at the Marine Security Guard School.
In rare cases, the Marines send a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, or a portion of the team, to reinforce security at embassies. They were sent to Africa, for example, in response to the 1998 terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. A FAST group also provided security aboard a Navy hospital ship in New York following the 9/11 attacks.
US ambassador killed in consulate attack in Libya
By OSAMA ALFITORY and MAGGIE MICHAEL
BENGHAZI, Libya – A mob enraged by a film ridiculing Islam’s prophet killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in a fiery attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. President Barack Obama strongly condemned the violence, vowed Wednesday to bring the killers to justice and tightened security at diplomatic posts around the world.
The attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens _ the first U.S. diplomat to die in the line of duty since 1979 _ came on Tuesday’s 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist strike and presented a new foreign policy crisis for the United States in a region trying to recover from months of upheaval.
Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, apologized for what he called the “cowardly” assault on the consulate, which also killed several Libyan security guards in the eastern city. Just before the Benghazi violence, protests also flared in Egypt, where crowds angry over the film climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down an American flag, which they replaced briefly with a black, Islamist flag.
The protests were touched off by an obscure movie made in the United States by a filmmaker who calls Islam a “cancer.” Video excerpts posted on YouTube depict the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.
But the brazenness of the embassy assaults _ the first on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya and Egypt _ were signs of the lawlessness that has taken hold in the two countries after revolutions ousted their autocratic secular regimes and upended the tightly controlled police state. Islamists have emerged as powerful forces, and security forces have largely broken down.
In Libya, the volatility is further compounded by the wide availability of heavy weapons and the numerous armed militia factions that remain more powerful than security forces.
Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff when the mob of protesters, including gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade, attacked.
The crowd, which numbered several thousand strong, moved on the consulate Tuesday evening, firing in the air outside the compound. The consulate is a one-story villa located in a fenced garden in downtown Benghazi. A small contingent of Libyan security forces protecting the facility also fired in the air, trying to intimidate them, said Wanis el-Sharef, the deputy interior minister of Libya’s eastern region.
But faced with the mob’s superior size and firepower, the Libyan security withdrew, el-Sharef said. Gunmen stormed the building, looted its contents and torch it, he said.
By the end of the assault, much of the building was burned out and trashed. On Wednesday, Libyans wandered freely around the burned-out building, taking photos of rooms where furniture was covered in soot and overturned. Walls were scrawled with graffiti.
Details of how the Americans were killed were still being pieced together Wednesday. But according to al-Sharef’s account, two distinct attacks took place.
Al-Sharef said Stevens and a consulate staffer who had stayed behind in the building were killed in the initial attack on the consulate.
The rest of the staff successfully evacuated to another building nearby, preparing to move to Benghazi Airport after daybreak to fly to the capital, Tripoli, he said.
Hours after the storming of the consulate, a separate group of gunmen attacked the other building, opening fire on the more than 30 Americans and Libyans inside. Two more Americans were killed and 32 wounded _ 14 Americans and 18 Libyans, he said.
There was no immediate confirmation of al-Sharef’s account.
Dr. Ziad Abu Zeid, who treated Stevens, told The Associated Press that he died of asphyxiation, apparently from smoke. In a sign of the chaos during the attack, Stevens was brought by Libyans to the Benghazi Medical Center with no other Americans, and no one at the facility knew who he was, Abu Zeid said.
Stevens was practically dead when he arrived before 1 a.m. Wednesday, and “we tried to revive him for an hour and a half, but with no success,” Abu Zeid said. The ambassador was bleeding in his stomach because of the asphyxiation but had no other injuries, he said.
The State Department identified one of the other Americans killed as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.