Terror group killed US envoy in Libya

2012-09-27 22:00
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta. (Larry Downing, AP/Pool)

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta. (Larry Downing, AP/Pool)

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Washington - The attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya this month was carried out by terrorists, but an ongoing investigation into the incident will have to determine which group was involved and if it had links to al-Qaeda, the US defence secretary said on Thursday.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens was a terrorist attack.

Panetta however stopped short of pinning the attack on a specific group, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late on Wednesday suggested there had been ties with an al-Qaeda linked group in nearby Mali.

"It was a terrorist attack," Panetta said at a press conference of the 11 September attack.

The Obama administration has come under fire for taking more than a week to designate the attack that claimed the life of US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US officials as a terrorist assault.

"The reason I think it pretty clearly was a terrorist attack is because a group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack on the consulate and against our individuals," he said at the Pentagon.

Panetta said however that which terrorists were involved "I think still remains to be determined by the investigation".

According to CNN, the crime scene in Benghazi has not yet been secured and FBI agents have not been able to travel there while they wait for Libyan government permission.

Get them

Panetta stressed the US would not let the perpetrators "get away with it."

Fox News reported on Thursday that administration officials had known the incident in Libya was a terrorist attack since within 24 hours of the attack, and Republicans in particular have been critical of the White House's response.

In the initial aftermath of the attack, the White House said the motivation was unclear, as it came amid escalating protests across the Muslim world against an American-made anti-Islamic video.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney faced questions on Thursday about why the president himself has never used the term. "The president's position [is] that this was a terrorist attack," he told reporters aboard presidential plane Air Force One.

He also stressed the information being provided to the public was "based on the best intelligence we've had and the assessments of our intelligence community".

Late Wednesday, Clinton linked the escalating presence of terrorist groups in the North African country of Mali to the Benghazi attack. She identified al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as a chief actor that has launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighbouring countries.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  leon panetta  |  us  |  libya  |  north africa
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