The attackers who killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last September in Benghazi, Libya, represented a variety of Islamist groups and were motivated by a myriad of factors, the top Libyan official investigating the case has told McClatchy Newspapers.
They almost certainly included members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North Africa affiliate of al Qaeda, which the French now are confronting in northern Mali, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said in a separate interview.
The two descriptions of what took place underscore the complexity of the threat posed by restive Islamist groups that suddenly found space to grow and expand after the collapse of the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whom Libyan rebels killed in October 2011 after a months-long NATO-led bombing campaign.
“I believe there are individuals who participated in the attacks in Benghazi who had at least some affiliation with AQIM,” Ham told McClatchy. “I don’t interpret from that that this was AQIM-directed or even an AQIM-inspired or -supported effort. But the connection is there. And I think that what I am wrestling with is: What is the connection with all these various individuals or groups?”