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Ansar al-Shari’a - Tunisia

Ansar al-Shari’a - Benghazi, Libya
Ansar al-Sharia in Libya
Ansar al-Shariah Brigade
Ansar al-Shari'a Brigade
Katibat Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi
Ansar al-Shariah-Benghazi
Al-Raya Establishment for Media Production
Ansar al-Sharia
Soldiers of the Sharia
Ansar al-Shariah
Supporters of Islamic Law

In 2012, Al-Qa‘ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took advantage of political chaos in northern Mali to consolidate its control there and worked with the secular Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) to secure independence in Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktou for ethnic Tuaregs. The Islamic militant group Ansar al-Din subsequently formed to support the creation of an Islamic state in Mali ruled by sharia, and a dissident group of AQIM members broke off to form Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and support Ansar al-Din.

Ansar al-Shari'a - Benghazi is an al-Qaida-linked Islamist group that gained prominence in 2012, the Salafist militia believes all authority comes from the Prophet Mohammed. Ansar al-Sharia formed during the Libyan Revolution of 2011 that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi. The Ansar al-Sharia group, which is trying to control Benghazi, is extremely fanatic and believes in aggression and killing people. The group is blamed for the attack on the US consulate in 2012 killing the US ambassador and 3 more Americans. The group advocates the implementation of strict Sharia law.

On 24 October 2012 U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) wrote the following letter to President Obama "We were disturbed by information in a news article yesterday citing internal emails sent from U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi during the siege on our Consulate last month, which were distributed by the State Department to the White House and other agencies. These emails make clear that your Administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to Al-Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it. This latest revelation only adds to the confusion surrounding what you and your Administration knew about the attacks in Benghazi, when you knew it, and why you responded to those tragic events in the ways that you did.

"Regardless of your statement in the Rose Garden on the day after the attack, you and members of your Administration consistently described the attack for days afterward as a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video. Your spokesperson repeatedly insisted on this version of events, as did your Ambassador to the United Nations, as many as five days after the attack occurred. In television interviews nearly a week after the events in Benghazi, you yourself even refused to describe it as a terrorist attack, instead emphasizing the role played by a hateful video. This concerted misrepresentation of the facts of the case – facts that, it appears, you and your Administration possessed almost as soon as the attack began – is why so many of our constituents are demanding a fuller explanation of why your Administration responded as it did."

On September 11, 2013 legilation [H.R.3082] to require a report on the designation of the Libyan faction of Ansar al-Sharia as a foreign terrorist organization, and for other purposes, was introduced in the House of Representatives. According to this draft legislation, Congress woudl find the following:

  1. Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi first announced itself in February 2012. The group is led by Muhammad al-Zahawi, who had previously been an inmate of former President Muammar al- Qaddafi's infamous Abu Salim prison.
  2. On August 6, 2013, the Department of Justice filed sealed criminal charges against Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a senior commander within Libya's Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Abu Khattalah was seen at the United States consulate in Benghazi during the September 11, 2012, attack that killed United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.
  3. On October 17, 2012, the New York Times reported that Libyan authorities named Ahmed Abu Khattalah as a commander in the September 11, 2012, attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi.
  4. On August 8, 2013, the Washington Institute for Near East Peace issued a report in which it highlights Ansar al- Sharia's establishment of training camps in Libya for jihadists preparing to fight with extremist rebels in Syria.
  5. Abu Sufian Bin Qumu, leader of the Ansar al-Sharia faction in Darnah, Libya, is a former Guantanamo Bay inmate with close al-Qaeda ties. Bin Qumu was an associate of Usama bin Laden and is believed to maintain connections to senior al- Qaeda members.
  6. According to a report published by the Library of Congress in August 2012, Ansar al-Sharia ``has increasingly embodied al Qaeda's presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States''.
  7. According to a report published by the Library of Congress in August 2012, al-Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan has dispatched operatives to Libya to establish a clandestine terrorist network there. The report concluded that al-Qaeda is on the verge of a fully operational network inside Libya, and Ansar al-Sharia is one of the brands employed by al Qaeda operatives.

On September 23, police arrested Hassen Brik, a senior member of the Tunisian hardline Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia, on alleged connections to the September 14 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. By December 2013 it was reported that Tunisians were increasingly worried about the plans of Ansar al-Sharia with the approach of New Year's Eve. The terrorist organisation could resort to using women in suicide attacks on December 31st, Tunisian daily Assarih suggested on 05 December 2013. Ansar al-Sharia had been linked to the killing of soldiers in Jebel Chaambi, the assassinations of opposition politicians Chorki Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, and the attack on the US embassy in Tunisia.

For months, Tunisian security and army units had been hunting Abou Iyadh, the group's leader, but had yet to find him. The fact that he was still at large added to the anxiety, who feared he might incite more violence and murder. "There is no doubt that Abou Iyadh plans to exact revenge on the Tunisian government, which arrested many of his supporters and eliminated many of his terrorist cells," said day labourer Hamid Abdelli, 37. "It's very likely that he is planning something in co-operation with other jihadist leaders in the region," he added. Abou Iyadh is described as one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda elements in Tunisia. He has declared his allegiance to the organisation and reportedly has strong ties with the leaders of al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The Department of State announced 10 February 2014 the designations of Ansar al-Shari’a [which means Army of Islamic Law] in Benghazi, Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah, and Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia as separate Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as Specially Designated Global Terrorist entities under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. In addition to these group designations, the Department of State has also designated Ahmed Abu Khattalah, Sufian bin Qumu, and Seifallah Ben Hassine, commonly known as “Abou Iyadh,” as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under E.O. 13224.

The consequences of the FTO and E.O. 13224 designations include a prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with these organizations, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization and individuals that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the control of U.S. persons. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.

Created separately after the fall of the Qadhafi regime, 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. Members of both organizations continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests in Libya.Ahmed Abu Khattalah is a senior leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Sufian bin Qumu is the leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah.

Founded by Seifallah Ben Hassine in early 2011, Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia was involved in the September 14, 2012 attack against the U.S. Embassy and American school in Tunis, which put the lives of over one hundred United States employees in the Embassy at risk. The Tunisian government has declared Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia a terrorist organization, and the group has been implicated in attacks against Tunisian security forces, assassinations of Tunisian political figures, and attempted suicide bombings of locations that tourists frequent. Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia, which is ideologically aligned with al-Qa’ida and tied to its affiliates, including AQIM, represents the greatest threat to U.S. interests in Tunisia.

The U.S. Government is committed to taking all appropriate actions against the organizations and individuals responsible for the attacks against the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya and Tunisia. We remain committed to working with the Libyan government to bring the perpetrators of the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks to justice and to ensure the safety of our personnel serving overseas. Likewise, we continue to urge the Tunisian government to bring to justice those responsible for the September 14, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis.

After the initial attack on the Benghazi Special Mission Compound, the State Department Operations Center alerted senior Department officials, other agencies, and the White House that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter for the attack. On November 27, 2012, then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice stated that, in fact, the talking points provided by the intelligence community, which formed the basis for her public comments on the Sunday talk shows of September 11, 2012, were “incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi.”

When a news report of the imminent terrorist designation surfaced, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would welcome such a designation and issued the following statement: “16 months after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the Administration is confirming what it has long known – that Ansar al-Sharia carried out an attack against the United States that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. The Obama Administration should be doing all it can to hunt down those responsible for this terrorist attack. I’m gravely concerned that they are not.”

Mohamed al-Zahawi, leader of the Libyan Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, died 23 January 2015 from wounds suffered when fighting pro-government troops in September 2014. Zahawi, who founded an Ansar al-Sharia brigade in Benghazi after helping with his fighters to oust Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, had been in hospital for treatment since he was seriously wounded in battle.




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