Libyan Militia Units That Aided U.S. Marines During Embassy Attack Linked To Al-Qaeda

Libya Shield’s Hafez al-Aquri In Front Of Al Qaeda Flag

The scandal known ‘Libya-Gate’ took another twist and turn, as evidence emerged indicating the Libyan militia units assigned to assist the U.S. Marines during the attack on the Benghazi Embassy have links to Al-Qaeda and violent Jihad. The attack, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. The United States Embassy was burned to the ground and the top secret safe house protecting the embassy staff was pinpointed by the terrorists, sustaining heavy damage from RPGS and small arms fire.

The organizations in question are the Libya Shield Brigade, led by Wisam Ben Hamid, and the Feb. 17 Brigade, headed by Fawzi Abu Kataf. Libya Shield Brigade was identified by several reliable sources, including Reuters and the French daily Le Figaro, as the armed unit that joined the Marines at the Benghazi airport and drove to rescue the surviving embassy staff at the safe house in downtown Benghazi. The Feb. 17 Brigade was the militia assigned to guard the embassy.

Photographs and videos have been published featuring the Libya Shield Brigade flying the black flag of Islamic Jihad; commonly known as the Al-Qaeda flag. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man who replaced Bin Ladin as the leader of Al Qaeda, established the flag as the symbol of the terrorist organization. It was prominently displayed by the mobs that attempted to takeover the United States Embassy in Cairo on September 11, 2012; the same day as the assault on the embassy in Benghazi.

Libya Shield Brigade was linked to Al Qaeda by no less an authority than the United States Government, in the special report prepared in August of 2012 by the U.S. Library Of Congress, Federal Research Division, under an Interagency Agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program.

On the first page of the report the leader of the Libya Shield Brigade, Wisam Ben Hamid, is named and his groups ties to Al-Qaeda are highlighted. Hamid and his various militias are mentioned throughout the document:

“Al-Qaeda adherents in Libya used the 2011 Revolution to establish well-armed, well-trained, and combat-experienced militias. Militia groups, led by Wisam Ben Hamid and Hayaka Alla, have adopted similar behavior, with, however, fewer advertised grudges against the West. The only open-source material that has linked these groups, aside from their jihadist credentials and their defense of sharia, is their attachment to the flag that has come to symbolize al-Qaeda.”

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, described the Libya Shield Brigade and the Feb. 17 Brigade:

“Aside from Rafallah Sahati, there are two other major militias in Benghazi that authorities rely on. One is called Libya Shield, led by Wisam Ben Hamid, an Islamist who has resolved tribal disputes. Another is the Feb. 17 Brigade, led by Fawzi Abu Kataf, who is seen as connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The militia is believed to be the closest to the state authorities and has helped secure borders.”

Greenfield voiced great concern over the choice of the Feb. 17 Brigade to protect the embassy:

“Imagine, pre-9/11/12, that you were responsible for arranging the defense of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Would you have considered American interests and personnel best protected by bringing in a local security outfit called the February 17 Martyrs Brigade?”

“Meanwhile, Ansar al Sharia (“Supporters of Islamic Law”), the al-Qaida-linked militia believed to have led the consulate assault in September, is a spinoff of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade”

In a recent article, The Daily Beast discussed the possibility the Feb. 17 Brigade deliberately betrayed the embassy:

“Two U.S. intelligence officials told The Daily Beast that the intelligence community is currently analyzing an intercept between a Libyan politician whose sympathies are with al Qaeda and the Libyan militia known as the February 17 Brigade—which had been charged with providing local security to the consulate. In the intercept, the Libyan politician apparently asks an officer in the brigade to have his men stand down for a pending attack—another piece of evidence implying the violence was planned in advance.”

The Daily Beast also described a cable approved by Ambassador Stevens two days before his murder in which he mentions the threat by the militias to withdraw their security protection from the embassy:

“Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men. The cable, reviewed by The Daily Beast, recounts how the two militia leaders, Wissam bin Ahmed and Muhammad al-Gharabi, accused the United States of supporting Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the Libyan transitional government, to be the country’s first elected prime minister. Jibril’s centrist National Forces Alliance won the popular vote in Libyan elections in July, but he lost the prime minister vote in the country’s Parliament on Sept. 12 by 94 to 92. Had he won, bin Ahmed and al-Gharabi warned they “would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing.”

It is troubling at best that the United States government would seek military assistance from organizations that have been cited by Libyan authorities, main stream media, and the Library Of Congress Federal Research Division for openly displaying the flag of Al Qaeda and releasing numerous videos calling for violent jihad. Even more disturbing is the fact the group protecting the embassy at the time of the attack is the same group that gave birth to Ansar al Sharia, the Al Qaeda affiliated fanatics believed responsible for the actual attack.

Libya was a powder keg months before the murder of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty. The vast armories of overthrown dictator Qadhafi have fallen into the hands of the various militant groups that now control much of Libya and the potential for acts of terror should have been obvious.

The only good news in this entire sordid affair is the reaction of the ordinary citizens of Libya; many of whom rose up to protest in the days following the brutal assault on the American Embassy and drove several of the prominent Jihadi groups out of Libya. Perhaps, by some small miracle, common sense and a desire for true freedom may still prevail, and the good people of Libya will be able to live in peace.