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Piecing Together the Benghazi Attack as More Protests Erupt

Libya makes "extremist" arrests, but the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says no signs point to a planned attack.

by
Bridget Johnson

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September 13, 2012 - 5:01 pm
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Libya arrested four men today suspected of “helping instigate” the mob violence at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“There is suspicion that those people belong to some extremist group here. But, again, this is something we don’t know until the investigation is through. I expect that to happen in the next couple of days at the most,” newly elected Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this afternoon.

“The evidence itself is based on mostly pictures taken throughout the compound at that time and also some witnesses,” he said.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence met behind closed doors for two hours with CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus today to be briefed on the rapidly unfolding investigation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she’s seen “no evidence or no assessment that indicates it was” a planned attack. “There was a protest and it could well be that quickly, some two dozen people took that as an opportunity to attack. They have attacked the Benghazi consulate before. I believe it was on June 6th. So this is not a new thing,” the senator said on CNN.

“And I believe an investigation is going on in this country concerning the individual who did this very obnoxious 12-minute preview of some very stupid movie and wrong-headed movie. And he may well not be who he has claimed to be either,” Feinstein added. “So we’re going to have to find out a lot about what happened.”

The senator thanked “the currently anonymous Libyan citizen who took Ambassador Stevens to the hospital.”

“He didn’t survive, but to me, that was such a human and real act,” she said.

Feinstein’s words for the Egyptian government were less kind, noting that President Mohamed Morsi didn’t denounce the attack on the Cairo embassy.

“I have helped Egypt in the past. I want to continue. But we need to see which way this government is going to go,” she said. “And I think the statements of the government in the next few days, also, are going to indicate which way this government goes. And that’s important for us here to listen to that.”

The Intelligence Committee was monitoring 11 ongoing demonstrations against the U.S. in various countries, with more expected around Friday prayers.

One of those demonstrations was outside the U.S. embassy in Yemen, where four protesters died in clashes with police today. No embassy personnel were hurt, and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi apologized to President Obama for the mob violence.

Obama called Hadi this afternoon to discuss the assault and express appreciation for the Yemeni government’s cooperation, the White House said. “President Hadi committed to doing everything possible to protect American citizens in Yemen, and said he had deployed additional security forces around the U.S. Embassy,” said the readout from the White House. “President Obama reiterated his rejection of any efforts to denigrate Islam, and emphasized that there is never any justification for the violence we are seeing.”

In today’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated that the administration rejects “the denigration of religion” and also believes “that there is no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence.”

“Islam respects the fundamental dignity of human beings, and it violates that dignity to wage attacks on innocents,” Carney said in a loose paraphrase of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It is especially wrong for violence to be directed against diplomatic missions.”

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