The attack which took the lives of the American Ambassador in Libya was far larger and better organized than first revealed, according to emerging reports, and points to the fact that Al Qaeda forces that have been training in Libya for operations against Syria have been given a safe zone free of US drone attacks.
According to Reuters, US forces attempting to mount a helicopter rescue operation ran into fierce, accurate ambush as they arrived in Benghazi. Two U.S. soldiers were killed.
BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A squad of U.S. troops dispatched by helicopter across the Libyan desert to rescue besieged diplomats from Benghazi on Wednesday ran into a fierce overnight ambush that left a further two Americans dead, Libyan officials told Reuters.
Miscommunication which understated the number of American survivors awaiting rescue - there were 37, nearly four times as many as the Libyan commander expected - also meant survivors and rescuers found themselves short of transport to escape this second battle, delaying an eventual dawn break for the airport.
Captain Fathi al-Obeidi, whose special operations unit was ordered by Libya's authorities to meet an eight-man force at Benghazi airport, said that after his men and the U.S. squad had found the American survivors who had evacuated the blazing consulate, the ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage.
"I really believe that this attack was planned," he said, adding to suggestions by other Libyan officials that at least some of the hostility towards the Americans was the work of experienced combatants. "The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries."
Meanwhile, a CNN article points out that the US has not been mounting antiterrorism operations, such as drone strikes, in area of Libya known to be a staging ground for Al Qaeda-linked groups. Libya is the source of many of the Jihadist foreign fighters operating to topple the regime in Syria, which is dominated by Shi’ia Muslims.
The US has created safe areas in several countries where Jihadis have free range of operation, and apparently, aren't attacked by armed drones. These are the same countries where we have participated in regime change operations.
This, of course, has created a dilemma, and presents the same problem US intelligence faced in its operations with Saudi-backed militant groups, including al-Qaeda, in Bosnia and Kosovo. Given, if we were to take out al-Qaeda and linked groups inside Libya, we would be destroying the very same Saudi-GCC financed militias that we now help in our effort to overthrow the Syrian regime:
Libyan and Western security officials tell CNN that al Qaeda has taken advantage of a security vacuum to build up a presence in eastern Libya.
A senior Libyan official told CNN in June that the United States had flown surveillance missions with drones over suspected jihadist training camps in eastern Libya. The official said that, to the best of his knowledge, they had not been used to fire missiles at militant training camps in the area.
Another Libyan official told CNN at the same time that five radical Islamist militant commanders were operating in the Derna area, with 200 to 300 men under their command in camps in the area. Ironically, Christopher Stephens -- the U.S. ambassador killed in Tuesday's attack -- had written extensively about the rise of Salafist factions in and around Derna in a 2008 diplomatic cable.
As CNN has previously reported, one of militant commanders, according to several sources, is Abdulbasit Azuz, a long-time associate of al-Zawahiri. Azuz was dispatched by al-Zawahiri to Libya from Pakistan's tribal areas in the spring of 2011 to create a foothold for al Qaeda in Libya, the sources say.
Azuz is a veteran jihadist who fought the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, according to several sources.
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