The attack on an American consulate building in Libya that killed the ambassador and three other Americans may have been a planned operation by an al-Qaeda affiliate timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
On Tuesday night, armed mobs shot at, bombed, and set on fire a US consulate building that killed the US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomats, two of whom were reportedly shot. Initially the incident was suspected to have been a response by religious Muslims to a low-budget anti-Islam film.
But the latest reports reveal the attack on the consulate might have been a coordinated assault opportunistically organized by elements of al-Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups to mark the anniversary of 9/11 and the recent death of a top al-Qaeda commander.
The Obama administration has gone so far as to say it believes the attack was not a spontaneous protest, but a planned assault, possibly by al-Qaeda, and has thus decided to send warships to the Libyan coast, additional US Marines to secure the consulates, and surveillance drones overhead, possibly to coordinate future airstrikes in conjunction with the fledgling US-backed Libyan government.
Administration officials there is an investigation into whether incident was a planned terrorist strike. One counter-terrorism official said it was “too coordinated or professional to be spontaneous.”
The US-led NATO intervention in Libya last year left a power vacuum which has helped bolster extremist elements like al-Qaeda. The government is weak and barely recognized by the population and the country is plagued by rebel militias that have refused to disarm.