Libyan authorities name Islamist group leader in Benghazi embassy attack

Ron Recinto
The Lookout

Authorities in Libya have named a leader of a Benghazi-based Islamist group as the commander in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last month, the New York Times reports.

Libyans involved in the investigation say Ahmed Abu Khattala was seen by witnesses as leading the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Abu Khattala is the leader of the Ansar al-Shariah, a militant group that wants to advance Islamic law in Libya, according to the the Times.

His exact involvement is still unclear as his group is fractionalized, and there may be more than one leader.

The Times story notes that the Ansar al-Shariah brigade has 100 to 200 fighters. Its name means "supporters of Islamic law," and the group is against electoral democracy. "Abu Khattala and Ansar al-Shariah share Al Qaeda's puritanism and militancy," says the writer of the New York Times story.

But the article also points out that the two groups operate independently, and Ansar al-Shariah "focuses only on Libya rather than on a global jihad against the West."

Abu Khattala, who was imprisoned but was released about a year ago by the government to appease an uprising, remains at large. He may flee across the Libyan border to another country, according to the Times.