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US suspects attack by hardliners

US suspects attack by hardliners
US suspects that the deadly attack on its mission in Benghazi in Libya could be a well- planned assault by Islamist hardliners rather than a rampage by a frenzied mob, officials said, warning that investigations underway could change the circumstances of the killings.

Still grappling to unravel the facts about the killing of its ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Consulate Staff almost 24 hours after the incident, US officials said the attack was ‘complex’ and ‘they seem to have used this (protest) as an opportunity’.

The attackers appeared to have used protest over a controversial film as a pretext to stage a major assault using small arms and rockets to overrun the Consulate, they said.

A senior administration official in a background briefing conceded that they did not have much details about the circumstances leading to the death of the ambassador, but admitted that prior to storming of the Consulate there had been heavy exchange of fire between sections of the protesters and the security personnel guarding the compound.

However, the Chairman of the Congress House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers minced no words in saying that the attack that killed US ambassador and his staff had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation.

‘Details may still be fuzzy... but clearly it has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation,’ the Republican lawmaker said.

Tuesday's attack on the American Consulate came amid a wave of protests in Muslim countries against a film made by an Israeli-American director which is deemed offensive to Islam.

US officials on Thursday said that at least three Americans were wounded in the attack that killed the envoy. Following the attack, Washington has ordered evacuation of all its staff in Benghazi to Libyan capital of Tripoli.

The final hours of Stevens where still shrouded in mystery after he was trapped in a blazing inferno in the mission. The FBI has now opened an inquiry into the attack and the circumstances leading to death of the four Americans.

The officials were unable to answer question as to why Stevens' personal security guard left him mid-way the attack and came back again inside the Consulate premises and how his body was found at Benghazi hospital.

Officials said that exact cause of his death would be known only after his autopsy report is received and added that they did not had access to him inside the hospital and received the body of the Ambassador only at the airport.

In the background briefing, senior administration officials, gave a timeline of events surrounding the attack, but warned that it may change as the attack is investigated.

‘On Tuesday at approximately 10 pm in Libya, the compound where our office is in Benghazi began taking fire from unidentified Libyan extremists... By about 4.15 US time, the attackers gained access to the compound and began firing into the main building, setting it on fire, to which the Libyan guard force and mission security personnel responded.


OBAMA CALLS HEADS OF LIBYA, EGYPT

A day after ‘outrageous’ attacks on US diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt, President Barack Obama called his counterparts in the two countries to discuss security cooperation and investigation into the killing of the American envoy to Tripoli and three other embassy staff. The White House said on Thursday that Obama discussed with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf and his Egyptian counterpart Mohammed Morsi the situation emerging in the region after the violent protests at the American diplomatic missions in their countries.

Following Obama's telephonic conversation with Magariaf, the White House said the two leaders agreed to work closely over the course of this investigation.

Obama reaffirmed the US support for Libya's democratic transition, a cause Ambassador Chris Stevens believed in deeply and did so much to advance, the White House said, two days after Stevens died after a violent mob attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi.

This was the first call between the two leaders after Magariaf's election last month. During the call, Obama thanked Magariaf for extending his condolences for the tragic deaths of Ambassador Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and two other State Department officials in Benghazi.

‘He also expressed appreciation for the cooperation we have received from the Libyan government and people in responding to this outrageous attack, and said that the Libyan government must continue to work with us to assure the security of our personnel going forward,’ the White House said.

Obama also spoke over telephone with Egyptian President Morsi to review the strategic partnership between the US and Egypt.


AMERICA SENDS FORCES TO LIBYA


The US has dispatched two warships loaded with missiles and a marine team to beef up the security at its missions in Libya after American ambassador was killed in a violent attack on its Consulate in Benghazi.

Senior Obama Administration officials said the 50-member marine unit was being flown from their base in Europe. This is in addition to two US warships USS Laboon and USS McFaul  which are now being moved to the coast of Libya.

The warships are equipped with Tomahawk missiles that could be used if the Obama Administration orders a strike against those responsible for the attack on US mission. The crews of each warship equal approximately 300 people.

The decision comes after US envoy to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi by an armed mob on Wednesday.

The move came hours after President Barack Obama said he has directed his administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of US personnel in Libya, and to increase security at diplomatic posts around the globe. Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on specific ship movements but said precautionary steps are being taken by the US military.

‘The Fleet's Anti-terrorism Security Teams (FAST) that we deploy when requested are responsible for the protection of Embassy personnel and property, and they also play a role in the evacuation of personnel, as required,’ the senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

‘Whether or not US military personnel will be involved in future operations to track down the perpetrators of this attack, I'm simply not going to speculate on what may or may not be in the works in the future,’ the official said.

According to the official, the Department of Defense is working closely with the White House and State Department to provide all necessary resources to support the security of US personnel in Libya.

The FAST teams were formed in 1987 to provide a quick response to security threats after a series of terror attacks on American interests in the 1970s and 1980s.
Agencies

Agencies

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