Writing for The Daily Beast, Eli Lake has an important update on the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Lake reports that the investigation is being treated as a criminal matter, with the FBI taking the lead and the CIA and Defense Department taking a back seat.
Lake also provides an update on the investigation into Ali Ani al Harzi. I wrote about Harzi being set free here and Ansar al Sharia Tunisia posting pictures of the three FBI agents who interviewed him here. As Lake initially reported, Harzi posted real-time updates about the Benghazi attack online.
I previously noted that one of Harzi’s brothers made his way to Iraq to wage jihad, and noted also this raises the possibility that the family is tied to al Qaeda in Iraq. Well, indeed they are. Lake reports:
According to [US intelligence] officials, Harzi’s brother is believed to be Tariq Abu Ammar, a midlevel planner for al Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq. Today Ammar’s main job is arranging the travel of fighters from North Africa to Syria’s al Qaeda-linked opposition, known as the al-Nusra Front.
Harzi was arrested in October in Turkey. He was reportedly en route to Syria to fight, undoubtedly under the al Nusrah Front’s banner. The Tunisian government had previously arrested Harzi in 2005 or 2006 (the exact year isn’t clear) for trying to make his way to Iraq to fight — presumably for al Qaeda in Iraq.
This is entirely consistent with a report by CNN in October (“US intel believes some Benghazi attackers tied to al Qaeda in Iraq“). CNN reported:
U.S. intelligence believes that assailants connected to al Qaeda in Iraq were among the core group that attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. government official told CNN.
…The latest intelligence suggests the core group of suspects from the first wave of the attack on the Benghazi mission numbered between 35 to 40. Around a dozen of the attackers are believed to be connected to either al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the government official said.
Terrorists with ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), an Egyptian network of jihadists run by Muhammad Jamal al Kashef (a longtime subordinate to Ayman al Zawahiri), and Ansar al Sharia all took part in the assault.