Among the first questions that President Barack Obama was asked at an Univision forum on Thursday had to do with the attack on the American consulate in Libya in which four U.S. citizens, including the American ambassador, were killed. Obama said that protests linked to an anti-Islamic trailer on YouTube were used by extremists to launch attacks on the consulate. He went on to say that investigations have not yet revealed whether or not the attack on America’s Libya consulate was linked to Al Qaeda. However, recent reports about the incident contradict the president and leave many questions left unanswered.
The president was asked first about he attacks which he said resulted from a phenomenon that has become commonplace – that a video or image offensive to Islam inflames the region and extremists use the ensuing unrest as cover to mount attacks.
On Thursday, White House Press Sec. Jay Carney told reporters that the Obama administration now believes, “It is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”
An Univision reporter cited Carney and asked Obama if the administration had information indicating which organizations were behind the terror attack in Libya.
“What we do know is that the natural protests that arose over the video were used by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests,” Obama said during the Univision forum.
However, a Libyan security guard who was monitoring the consulate in Benghazi said that the attacks were coordinated and not an escalation of spontaneous protests:
A Libyan security guard who said he was at the U.S. consulate here when it was attacked Tuesday night has provided new evidence that the assault on the compound that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was a planned attack by armed Islamists and not the outgrowth of a protest over an online video that mocks Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.
Futhermore, an eye-witness to the attacks told CBS News that there were no protests at that consulate at all prior to the attack:
Witnesses of last week’s deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya have told CBS News that the alleged anti-American protest that U.S. officials say morphed into the assault never actually took place.
The new details add to the widening rift between U.S. and Libyan accounts of the attack as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to brief members of Congress behind closed doors Thursday. On Wednesday, a top U.S. counterterrorism official told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the assault was “opportunistic,” but a “terrorist attack.”
One Univision reporter followed up by asking if Al Qaeda was linked to the deadly attack on U.S. citizens in Benghazi.
“Well, we don’t know that,” President Obama replied.
According to a report in Fox News, however, one of the primary planners and participants of the attack was a former Guantanamo detainee and a prominent member of Al Qaeda.
In 2011, the New York Times reported that Sufyan Ben Qumu, who had helped finance the September 11, 2001 attacks and was released from detention in 2007, helped plan and led the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi. He was described by the New York Times as an “ally of sorts” of coalition during their April, 2011 push to overthrow Muammar Gadhafi.
The president’s responses to this question during the Univision forum have left more questions in his wake.
Watch the forum below via Univision:
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