A rare interview with a top Libyan intelligence official reveals that, as an unintended consequence of the French intervention to quash a radical Muslim insurgency in nearby Mali, which forced al Qaeda in the Mahgreb to move north earlier this year, Libya has now become the main base of the terror group in the region, heightening the instability of what is already a volatile country…
Since the assault last September on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, Libyan jihadist groups have been undergoing a reconfiguration, with more of them coming under the direct sway of AQIM. One Libyan intelligence source likens it to a “swarm of bees” accepting a new queen bee.
According to this source, AQIM didn’t order or plot directly the assault on the U.S. Consulate but was involved in the decision to attack, which was taken not by a single mastermind, but by a committee of Libyan and Egyptian jihadist ringleaders. “Radical cells in several of Benghazi’s revolutionary militias were involved in the decision,” he says, including members of the February 17 Brigade, the militia that also had guards detailed to protect the consulate.
He says the leaders of the militia most frequently blamed for the attack, Ansar al-Sharia, were not involved in the assault, although radical subordinates were. Other attackers came from the Omar Mukhtar brigade, the Abu Salem Martyrs Brigade, and the Rafala Sahati brigade. Three Algerian members of AQIM were present at the assault on the consulate and for the subsequent attack on a nearby CIA compound, where consulate staff fled. “They are now fighting in Syria,” he says.