Continued from page 1

The House report said the State Department Operations Center issued an alert Sept. 12 that stated, “Al Qaeda linked Ansar al Sharia (AAS) claimed responsibility for the attack and had called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

Additionally, the CIA had drafted talking points for members of Congress to use in discussing the attack publicly that initially mentioned the terrorists had “potential links to Ansar al Sharia,” the House report stated.

The military officials said the Ansar al Sharia Brigade was formed from Islamists who were part of the 2011 revolution to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in early 2012 as an offshoot of the February 17 Brigade.

The goal of the organization is to create a state in Libya run by fundamentalist Sharia law. The name means Supporters of Sharia in Arabic.

Like other Islamist groups, it is committed to conducting jihad or holy war against the United States and Western interests in pursuit of its objectives.

According to a Pentagon-sponsored study of al Qaeda in Libya, the Pakistan-based central al Qaeda terrorist group does not have a formal affiliate in Libya. However, that report said Ansar al Sharia “could be the new face of al Qaeda in Libya.”

After the Sept. 11 attack, protesters drove out Ansar al Sharia from a base it operated in Benghazi and as a result the group assumed a lower public profile.

The Brigade reached an agreement with other Islamist militias in Benghazi in January 2013 to set out clearly defined areas of the city where the militias conducted patrols and operated vehicle checkpoints.

The agreement coincided with reports that Ansar al Sharia was seeking to brand itself as a humanitarian relief organization and to play an open role in Benghazi. The group has downplayed its military activities and played up its social service work.

It opened a women’s clinic in late 2012 and has reported on its Facebook page that it delivered food to needy families in regions outside the city. The group also hosted youth conferences.

An insignia used by the group and posted on Facebook states “Ansar al Sharia Patrols/Your Sons At Your Service.” Among its boasts online were claims the group has intercepted illegal immigrants and seized shipments of illicit drugs from patrols and checkpoints.

News reports from Libya stated that in February Ansar al Sharia commanders were said to be negotiating with the Libyan Interior Ministry on an agreement to hand over detainees to Tripoli government.

According to the officials, the weak central government fears Ansar al Sharia and lacked adequate security and police personnel. As a result, the group has been able to increase its access to both territory and local populations.

Ansar al Sharia militants in March raided the Benghazi European School and searched for textbooks they claimed contradicted Sharia law.

The private school is mainly for children of non-Libyans and raised concerns about the group’s Islamist agenda.

Story Continues →