international affairs

Four Arrested in Libya Attack, Officials Say Al Qaeda Connection Is Unlikely

Iranian protesters burn the U.S. flag.

The Libyan government arrested four people on Thursday in connection with the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that that killed four Americans, but the hunt is still on for others who may have been involved. “There is a group we’re following to know who’s connected to them, and [we] are monitoring their phone calls,” says Wanis al-Sharif, the Libyan deputy interior minister that heads the task force tracking the group. While officials are increasingly skeptical that the incident was a planned attack connected to Al Qaeda, the situation has continued to escalate, with protests taking place today in nearly a dozen countries across the Middle East.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the fundamentalist militant group Ansar al-Sharia is still suspected of perpetrating the attack, though the organization denies it was involved. A U.S. official says that it now appears to be “an opportunistic attack” committed by militants seeking to take advantage of the protests that broke out in Benghazi over the Islamophobic video Innocence of Muslims. “There is no intelligence indicating this was premeditated,” the official added. Though at first there was speculation that the group might have been retaliating against the killing of a top Al Qaeda official by U.S. drones, another U.S. intelligence official tells CNN that it’s unlikely that Al Qaeda was behind the attack, though the militants may be sympathetic to the terrorist group.

So far the United States’ role in the investigation has focused on intelligence gathering and the use of unmanned drones, and the new information makes it less likely that there will be a military response. However, the widely condemned video of dubious origin continued to provoke anti-American demonstrations on Thursday. Senator Dianne Feinstein told CNN that protests have taken place in eleven nations, including Tunisia, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Israel, and Egypt, where people have continued to gather since Tuesday. The protests in the region could worsen tomorrow, as Muslims gather to pray on Friday and groups may gather afterward to head to U.S. embassies. In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI also warned that as the film gains attention, “the risk of violence could increase both at home and abroad.”

4 Arrested in Libya, Al Qaeda Not Behind Attack