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Ansar al Sharia video features jihadist once thought to be US ally in Benghazi

Ansar al Sharia Libya, the jihadist group notorious for its role in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, has released a 42-minute video highlighting its recent operations. The video, titled “Enter Upon Them By The Gate,” focuses on Ansar al Sharia’s opposition to General Khalifa Haftar’s forces. Haftar is a former Libyan general who has opposed the jihadists’ advances in eastern Libya.

In the video, Ansar al Sharia’s leaders again emphasize their goal of establishing Islamic governance inside Benghazi.

And the production also features Wissam Bin Hamid, a jihadist leader US officials once considered an ally in post-Muammar Qaddafi Libya.

Bin Hamid is shown twice in the video.

A photo of Bin Hamid is first displayed during Ansar al Sharia’s discussion of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council [BRSC], which is a coalition of several Islamist and jihadist factions currently fighting against Haftar and his allies. Ansar al Sharia is likely the dominant organization in the BRSC.

Bin Hamid is shown sitting in front of the black flag first popularized by the Islamic State of Iraq [ISI], an al Qaeda branch that evolved into Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State, which has been disowned by al Qaeda’s general command. The ISI’s flag was adopted by other jihadist groups long ago, including some that are openly loyal to al Qaeda. In its media productions, Ansar al Sharia typically uses an even simpler black banner similar to that flown by al Qaeda and its branches. See, for example, the upper right hand corner of the image of Bin Hamid below.

“The mujahideen in Benghazi announced the formation of the [BRSC], gathering together the words and uniting the ranks,” a narrator says. “And it has combined a group of battalions, brigades, factions and jihadi groups from among those who had experience and history fighting the tyrant Qaddafi before and after the revolution.”

Bin Hamid is one of the key leaders in this coalition, according to Ansar al Sharia. Indeed, the group has previously published photos of Bin Hamid fighting alongside other jihadists, including Ansar al Sharia’s emir, Mohammed al Zahawi.

After halting Haftar’s offensive, Ansar al Sharia’s narrator says in the new video, the “leadership of the BRSC met and drew up precise plans for a military operation aiming to liberate the city of Benghazi” from Haftar’s forces. “And so the efforts have united, and the soldiers assembled; the tasks have been allotted, and the operations distributed.”

Bin Hamid is shown a second time during footage celebrating the fall of Camp Thunderbolt in July. The base was controlled by special forces loyal to Haftar until the jihadists overran it in short order. [See LWJ report, Ansar al Sharia, allies seize special forces base in Benghazi.]

Bin Hamid praises Allah for the jihadists’ successes at Camp Thunderbolt, saying it was a “base of evil which has corrupted the country and harmed the worshipers [i.e. Muslims].”

“And we will not leave it, with Allah’s permission,” Bin Hamid continues, “until Allah’s law [sharia] is established.”

Zahawi, Ansar al Sharia’s leader, echoes Bin Hamid’s argument moments later. As can be seen in the image below, Zahawi is standing to Bin Hamid’s left as he speaks at Camp Thunderbolt.

In “the name of the fighters of the BRSC, and in the name of all free young men in Benghazi: we will fight and struggle until the law of Allah [sharia] is ruled in this land,” Zahawi says.

The close alliance between Zahawi and Bin Hamid, who are both fighting to implement a harsh version of sharia law, underscores the degree to which American officials misjudged their allies in Libya.

Bin Hamid was supposed to be a key guarantor of security in eastern Libya, but his name has surfaced time and again in the investigation into the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack. He admittedly met with American officials in Benghazi just days before the assault to discuss security. Once the assault was underway, however, Bin Hamid refused to provide assistance. Even a call from a personal friend of Ambassador Christopher Stevens did not move Bin Hamid to act. [For a summary of reports concerning Bin Hamid’s role, see LWJ report: Ansar al Sharia ally a key figure in Benghazi security failures.]

While Bin Hamid claims to have stood idly by as the US compound was ransacked and four Americans were killed, Zahawi’s fighters joined known al Qaeda branches in overrunning the US Mission and Annex.

Today, Bin Hamid and Zahawi advertise their alliance in Ansar al Sharia’s videos.

Thomas Joscelyn :Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

View Comments (3)

  • Bin hamid was yet another figure that stood by and did nothing at Benghazi. The question I have was why was he there to begin with standing outside? Perhaps he too was upset for the same reasons the attackers of the US embassy in cairo were-anti western hatred whipped up and spurred into action by Jihadi imams over some obscure YouTube video. Perhaps he participated as a part of a blocking force or a reserve force in his position outside the mission.
    The libyan defenders of the mission were upset about the video so they refused to defend the mission, went home and posted their reasons on facebook. I have never heard anyone in the western media seek a reason why they fled. They seem to be happy enough to report that they "fled"
    The actual facebook page is still available on the al monitor website and a translation provided by al monitor reads:
    "The February 17 Martyrs Brigade denies categorically the occurrence of any confrontation between it and the young men who overran the embassy jealously protecting our noble Prophet and protesting against the insult to him."
    The post is time stamped 11:31 PM sept 11,2012 which is after the two deaths at the mission had occurred but before the 2 deaths at the annex occurred. This post was made while the battle was in progress.
    With more and more of these so called moderate leaders coming out as anti western islamists, it might be time for people to consider if the firestorm that erupted across the arab world, Afghan and Pakistan theatre the second week of September over a YouTube video, actually raged in Libya as well. The evidence clearly indicates that it did. I have yet to hear anyone offer an explanation on how Libya was 'cocooned' from all of this.
    For myself, the connection between Cairo and Benghazi seemed very clear from the start. Subsequent information only confirming that, I assumed that after the election the 'Benghazi gate' story would go away. I was wrong. The lingering effects of a massive pre-election politicization of the event seems to be preventing if from doing so.

  • Gee, the US Admin sided with another jihadi that eventually turned against it. The narrative goes on, and on, and on. President, after President, after President.
    Farcical how all of this happens, and has happened, yet the US Admin continues its other narrative that there are "moderate" jihadi's in Syria, with success..
    FAIL

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