The State Department on Friday for the first time blamed specific groups and militants for the 2012 Benghazi attack, designating them as terrorists — a move that further undermines initial claims the attack was spontaneous.
The department announced that it was labeling Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah as terror organizations, in part over their role in the Benghazi attack. It applied the same label to Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, over a separate attack on Americans in Tunis.
The State Department also labeled as terrorists Sufian bin Qumu, head of the Darnah branch and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, and Ahmed Abu Khattalah, head of the Benghazi branch.
Fox News previously reported that the two were suspected of playing a role in the attack. And despite State Department claims that Al Qaeda leadership was not involved and a recent news report echoing that assessment, Fox News has learned that bin Qumu has Al Qaeda ties.
According to his Guantanamo file, he has historic ties to the Al Qaeda network, including training at one point at “Usama bin Laden’s Torkham camp.”
The State Department, in its announcement Friday, specifically discussed allegations against the Ansar al-Sharia branches.
“Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah have been involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya, and the September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya,” the department said. “Members of both organizations continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests in Libya.”