Libyans Revise Down Arrest Figure From Benghazi Attack
September 17, 2012
Libya's interior minister, Fawzi Abdel A'al, has clarified the number of arrests so far in connection with a deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last week whose four victims included the American ambassador.
Abdel A'al said four people had been arrested, far below the 50 arrests mentioned by the leader of Libya's national congress, Muhammad Magarief, in an earlier interview with an American TV station.
Abdel A'al said the 50 probably referred to people who were wanted for investigation.
"I don't think that 50 have been arrested, but maybe they are targeted for primary investigation -- what I have is that four have been arrested and there is a list of wanted people for investigation, maybe they are requested for investigation or even arrest. Being ahead with the details will not serve the cause," Abdel A'al said.
The attack on September 11 in the eastern city came amid protests over a video made in the United States that Muslims saw as blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad.
It resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Abdel A'al suggested the attack appeared to have been preplanned, a suggestion that U.S. officials appeared more wary of making.
"I think that the details saying that the protesters were armed and these people were carrying rifles, machine guns, and hand grenades," Abdel A'al said. "I don't think it was a peaceful protest."
U.S. officials have said there is no evidence so far to indicate the attack was preplanned, although they initially said they would be looking into that possibility.
Speaking to U.S. TV on September 16, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the "spontaneous protest" in Benghazi was soon hijacked by "extremist elements."
"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 postrevolution, and that it spun from there into something much, much more violent."
Rice said it is unclear 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.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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