Would the Real Ansar al-Sharia Please Stand Up?

Back in September, when Republicans were hyperventilating over the former Gitmo detainee, Abu Sufyan bin Qumu, purportedly behind the Benghazi attack, Aaron Zelin patiently explained the difference between Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi–which reportedly launched the attack–and Ansar al-Sharia in Derna–which Qumu leads.

Today, he walks CNN through the official Facebook postings of the latter group–showing that they immediately disclaimed credit for the attack–as a way of refuting the importance of emails (the Republicans’ latest topic of hyperventilation) describing Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi claiming credit.

The e-mail carried the subject line: “Update 2: Ansar al Sharia Claims Responsibility For Benghazi Attack.” The message said: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group has claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”


Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and two other Republicans in the Senate wrote Wednesday to Obama, saying: “These emails make clear that your Administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to Al-Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it.”

However, an examination of the known Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi reveals no such claim of responsibility. Aaron Zelin, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tracks dozens of jihadist websites and archives much of what they say. He told CNN he was unaware of any such claim having been posted on the official Facebook page or Twitter feed of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi.

Zelin, who said his RSS feed sends him any new statement from the group, provided CNN with a copy of that feed. It shows no Facebook update between September 8 and September 12, when a posting late that afternoon first referenced the attack. Zelin notes that the posting referred to a news conference the group had held earlier that day in Benghazi in which it denied any role in the assault on the consulate, while sympathizing with the attackers.

In a Tweet, Zelin explains that Ansar al-Sharia Derna–the one with ties to the Gitmo detainee–has no known online presence.

Given that so many people have apparently seen these emails, I’d be curious to learn a little more about who sent it. In any case, you can’t expect people in Tripoli working on an evacuation and worrying about an attack on the Embassy itself, to offer the clearest analysis of the attack.

But that won’t stop Republicans from treating it as such.

2 replies
  1. Brindle says:

    Slightly OT:
    Russian general claims U.S. stingers in hands of Syrian rebels–

    —“We have reliable information that Syrian militants have foreign portable anti-aircraft missile systems, including those made in the USA… it should be cleared up who delivered them,” Gen Makarov told journalists in Russia.

    There have been earlier unconfirmed reports of the Syrian opposition having shoulder-mounted missiles, but the West has been reluctant to openly arm the rebels.—BBC

    Notice the BBC’s weaselly last sentence; not willing to state the more obvious speculation that the West is arming the rebels, just not in broad televised daylight, as it were.


  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    Even less O/T, but certainly relevant… Reuters reports “Libyan suspect in U.S. envoy attack killed in Cairo”:

    A Libyan militant suspected by Egypt of involvement in last month’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya has been killed during a raid by Egyptian security forces in Cairo, a security official said on Thursday.

    The Libyan was killed on Wednesday in a raid targeting him and other militants with suspected links to al Qaeda in Cairo’s eastern district of Nasr City, the official said….

    The Libyan, identified as Karim Ahmed Essam el-Azizi, was killed by a bomb he had tried to use against the security forces during the raid, the security official said.

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