American diplomats were warned of possible violent unrest in Benghazi three days before the killings of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his team, Libyan security officials say.
The claim came as the country’s interim President, Mohammed el-Megarif, said his government had information that the attack on the US consulate had been planned by an Islamist group with links to al-Qa’ida and with foreigners taking part.
However, the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, insisted that the killings had resulted from a demonstration against a film about the Prophet Mohamed, replicating protests in Cairo, which had been “hijacked” and got out of control.
The Independent has reported diplomatic sources who said that the threat of an attack against US interests in the region was known to the US administration 48 hours before it took place. The alert was issued by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but not made public. A State Department spokesman maintained: “We are not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the US Mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”
But President Megarif told the American station National Public Radio: “We firmly believe that this was a pre-calculated, pre-planned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the US Consulate. A few of those who joined in were foreigners who had entered Libya from different directions, some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria.”