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Libya, U.S. Give Conflicting Accounts Of Benghazi Attack

A burned-out car outside the destroyed U.S. Consulate in Benghazi
A burned-out car outside the destroyed U.S. Consulate in Benghazi
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By RFE/RL
The United States and Libya have offered conflicting accounts of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, last week in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed and part of the U.S. Consulate burned.

On September 16, Libyan parliament chief Muhammad al-Magariaf announced the arrest of 50 suspects in the case, saying the assault was preplanned by extremists, mostly foreigners, backed by a few local Al-Qaeda "affiliates and sympathizers."

"It was planned, definitely. It was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival," Magariaf said.

When asked where the foreign extremists came from, Magariaf responded that "they entered Libya from different directions" -- with "some of them definitely coming from Mali and Algeria," which are both to the west of Libya.

"The way these perpetrators acted and moved and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration -- this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned and predetermined," he said.

But Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told U.S. television interview programs on September 16 that the attack did not appear to be premeditated to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Rice said evidence gathered so far suggests "some individual clusters of extremists" hijacked a protest that began "spontaneously in Benghazi" as a reaction to a protest organized by the Muslim Brotherhood a few hours earlier at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

The Cairo protest reportedly was sparked by a low-budget video -- produced privately in the United States and posted on YouTube -- that ridicules Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

Rice told the CBS interview program "Face the Nation" that Washington wants to see the results of an FBI investigation before drawing any definitive conclusions about events in Benghazi. But she gave an assessment based on what she called "the best information" to date.

"Soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution, and that it spun from there into something much, much more violent," she said.

Rice said it has yet to be determined whether the extremists who fired rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. Consulate building in Benghazi had ties to Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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