Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, roiled by the first killing of a U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, is investigating whether the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was a planned terrorist strike to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not a spontaneous mob enraged over an anti-Islam YouTube video.
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks about the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Libyans walk on the grounds of the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.(AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
President Barack Obama declared in a White House appearance that the U.S. would "work with the Libyan government to bring to justice" those who killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The attack on the Benghazi consulate was "a planned, coordinated, well-executed military-style event," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said.
In a show of force, the Pentagon moved two warships to the Libyan coast. Officials said one destroyer, the USS Laboon, moved to a position off the coast Wednesday, and the destroyer USS McFaul was en route and should be stationed off the coast within days, increasing the number of Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean from four to five.
Officials said the ships, which carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, do not have a specific mission. But they give commanders flexibility to respond to any mission ordered by the president.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said, "Without commenting on specific ship movements, the United States military regularly takes precautionary steps when potential contingencies might arise in a given situation. That's not only logical in certain circumstances, it's the prudent thing to do."
At the same time, some 50 U.S. Marines headed to Libya to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities, initially at the American embassy in Tripoli, not Benghazi.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss troop movements.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said it was too early to judge whether the Benghazi attack was planned.
"I know that this is being investigated, and we're working with the Libyan government to investigate the incident. I would not want to speculate on that at this time," he said. Several Libyan security guards also were killed.
Rogers, R-Mich., said U.S. intelligence had not yet determined who was responsible, but added, "Our list is narrowing."
"When you see (such an attack), it wasn't some folks who had some guns in their garage and said let's shoot up the consulate," Rogers said in an interview Wednesday.
The FBI was sending evidence teams to Libya, said a law enforcement official.
Analysts are working on several different scenarios based on intelligence that could lead to a motive for the attack. Some concern the possibility of targeting high-ranking officials, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. But none of the intelligence has suggested terrorists would specifically target Stevens, said the official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
The attack in Libya, which came hours after a mob stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down the U.S. flag, was presumed to have been triggered by a movie whose trailer has gone viral on YouTube, depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad in disrespectful ways. In an extraordinary move, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called anti-Islamic preacher Terry Jones and asked him to stop promoting the film. A spokeswoman said the church would not show the film Wednesday evening.
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