September 20th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Questions swirl about Libyan militant's role in Benghazi attack

By Barbara Starr, Suzanne Kelly and Tim Lister

Whether he likes it or not, a Libyan by the name of Sufian bin Qumu has suddenly made it into the bloodstream of the international media in connection with the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week.

Fox News reported late Wednesday that bin Qumu may have been involved in the attack, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.  However, a senior U.S. official told CNN Thursday that so far the United States had no evidence that he was - either in leading or planning the attack.

Qumu is a senior figure in the group Ansar al Shariah, which appeared to condone the attack immediately after it occurred, but later stressed it was not involved.

The U.S. official said Ansar al Shariah had not been positively identified as responsible for the attack, "which is more likely to turn out to be a bunch of various elements and basically AQ militants."

Another senior official told CNN: "Ansar al Sharia is only one of the elements they are looking at. The notion that the intelligence community has zeroed in on either Ansar al Sharia - its leader Sufian bin Qumu in particular is completely untrue."

"The U.S. intelligence community has no intelligence indicating that bin Qumu was on scene or even directly involved in the attack," the official said.

That jibes with congressional testimony Wednesday from Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

"A number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area," Olsen said.

"We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda's affiliates - in particular, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb."

In the words of one U.S. official Thursday: "Any suggestion that a leading suspect or 'mastermind' of the attack has been identified at this point is premature. It is safe to assume that any significant extremist in eastern Libya is going to be under a lot of scrutiny right now."

As for bin Qumu himself, Libyan sources have told CNN within the past week that it's unclear whether he is actively involved in the jihadist cause in Libya.  He was transferred from Guantanamo Bay detention center to Libya in 2007, after being recommended for "continued detention" in another country.   He was later released from jail in Tripoli as part of a deal by which members and former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were freed in return for renouncing violence against the state. The deal was mediated by Saif al Gadhafi.

In recent interviews with local media, Qumu has said he is not part of any jihadist group. But a Libyan source told CNN in June that he was the only one of five militant leaders in eastern Libya to reject an appeal from Libya's Grand Mufti, Asadiq Gherayli, to pledge not to resort to violence.

Qumu is believed to have at least one compound or camp to the east of the city of Derna, in wooded hills close to Ras al Hilal on the Mediterranean coast.  There have been tensions between him and other militant leaders in and around Derna - long an area associated with Islamic extremism.

Local reports linked him to an assassination attempt against another militant leader earlier this year.

He told an interviewer in March on a blog called Arfad al-Tamimi that his "batallion" had not been asked to join the national army, but insisted there were no foreign fighters in it.  Asked about his wearing Afghan-style fatigues, he responded: "We are now free, and instead of talking about my outfit, why are they not questioning what women are wearing nowadays," apparently a reference to local women not wearing the full veil.

He is then asked: "On your (batallion's) website, there is a picture of an explosive belt with the words 'How much I miss you.' What does that mean?"
Bin Qumu reportedly answered: "I'd like to know who posted that."

Now 53 years old, Qumu was once a tank driver in the Libyan army, but the Gadhafi regime said he was imprisoned for a variety of offenses including murder.

Qumu escaped from jail in 1993 and made his way to Afghanistan where he trained in Osama bin Laden's Torkham Camp, according to a background summary assessment from the U.S. military, based on Qumu's statements.

He joined the Taliban in 1998, according to the assessment, and was wounded in the leg during fighting near Kabul after the 9/11 attacks. He was captured in Peshawar, Pakistan, and handed to U.S. forces, arriving at Guanatanamo Bay in May 2002.

The detainee "has a non-specific personality disorder," according to the assessment.

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. seo

    Hi I'm Jim Q Cott seo http://test83829.com/

    March 3, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  2. krm1007 ©™

    Few days back, there was an interesting article on Pakistan "The bubble of Islamic Republic of Pakistan has burst in our faces". It made me to do more research on the subject and on grave political conditions in Pakistan, and possibility of another military coup. We here in the United States, continue to monitor the political and cultural turmoil in Pakistan and are very concerned with the continued state of deterioration, and it's nuclear stockpile. At this point, we restate our view that Islamic Republic of Pakistan is in a precarious situation and that a geo-political implosion is imminent (if not already in process) and the need of the hour. As you will recall, along the Afghan/Pak borders, Pakistan has an unmanageable large fundamentalist Taliban population mired in poverty and we are spinning our wheels trying to prop it up. Additionally, it is also too big of a geographical units of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for Pakistani weak government to govern. In 2001 the Pakistani military entered the FATA for the first time in history, and returned home with heavy casualties. We Americans now need to focus on our own people and cannot afford to handout more financial and technological aid to Pakistan. We believe that this de-fragmentation of Pakistan along 13 FATA agencies (see the list below) will unleash boundless opportunities and uber economic demand that will be beneficial to US and our allies in extracting rare earth minerals along Afghan/Pak borders, and help pull ourselves out of current recessionary trends. Knowing presence of hard core islamic fundamentalists, war lords, drug cartels, and Russians and Chinese involvement, in the region, We pray for the events to unfold peacefully and in a harmonious manner for the poverty stricken people of Pakistan and its global future economic super power neighbors China and India. For the sake of long lasting peace and to break the cycle of violence in Pakistan, a potential solution for out of control militancy in Pakistan is to break down the Pakistan along the FATA agencies, like creation of Bangladesh in 1972:

    Bajaur Agency
    Mohmand Agency
    Khyber Agency
    Frontier Region Peshawar
    Frontier Region Kohat
    Orakzai Agency
    Kurram Agency
    Frontier Region Bannu
    North Waziristan Agency
    Frontier Region Lakki Marwat
    Frontier Region Tank
    South Waziristan Agency
    Frontier Region Dera Ismail Khan

    My prayer and good wishes are with militancy infested Islamic Republic of Pakistan!!!

    September 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  3. sally620

    Make up your mind Sandy

    September 23, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  4. sally620

    They dont have the right to set at the security council.They kept there mouth shut when they new where benladen was the entire time our boy were getting killed in the mountains. I no what I would like to give them and it sure not a seat at
    any table!!!

    September 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  5. krm1007 ©™

    The sacrifices of the following muslim fighters in making this world safe are unmatched and muslim country deserves a seat at the table of the permanent members of The UN Security Council. Support Pakistan for the permanent member of the UN Security Council my friends.

    Osama Bin Laden
    Atiyah Abd Al-Rahman
    Abu Ayyub Al-Masri
    Mustafa Al-Yazid
    Abu Qaswarah
    Abu Laith Al-Libi
    Muharib Abdul Latif Al-Jubouri
    Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah
    Baitullah Mehsud
    Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
    Amjad Farooqi
    Ali Qaed Senyan Al-Harthi
    Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh
    Abu Zubaydah
    Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri
    Muhammad Atef
    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
    Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso
    Anwar al-Awlaki
    Mamdouh Mahmud Salim
    Ayman al-Zawahiri
    Thirwat Salah Shirhata
    Rifa'i Taha Musa
    Mustafa Hamza
    Mohammed Atef aka Abu Hafs al-Masri
    Saif al-Adel
    Abd al-Aziz al-Jamal
    Abu Zubaydah
    Abu Jafar al-Jaziri
    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi aka Abu Ahmad
    Abu Zubair al-Haili
    Tawfiq Attash Khallad
    Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri
    Abu Hazim aka Khalid Al Bin Ali Al-Hajj
    Abu Mohammed al-Masri aka Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah
    Tariq Anwar al-Sayyid Ahmad
    Mohammed Salah
    Yasser al-Jaziri
    Mahfouz Ould al-Walid aka Abu Hafs the Mauritanian
    Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi aka "Riyadh the Facilitator"
    Zaid Khayr
    Safwan al-Hasham
    Ahmed Said al-Khadr
    Amin al-Haq
    Abdallah Tabarak
    Saif al-Din al-Ansari
    Abu Ubeid al-Qurashi
    Abu Bashir al-Yemeni
    Saad bin Laden
    Mahammed bin Laden
    Hamza bin Laden
    Saif bin Laden
    Yeslam Bin Ladin
    Saif Alwahid
    Khalid al-Zawahiri
    Thamr Mohammad Sharifi
    Najwa Ghanem
    Abdallah Al-Halabi
    Abdul Rahim Riyadh
    Abu Salah al-Yemeni
    Hamza al-Qatari
    Sheik Mohammed Al Hasan Al-Moayad
    Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed
    Mamoun Darkazanli
    Abu Yasir al-Jaziri
    Abdallah Muhammed Rajab Abd al-Rahman
    Munib Zahiragic
    Enaam Arnaout
    Haroun Abed
    Osailly Darwish
    Allie Darwish
    Ibrahim Bah
    Samih Ossaily
    Aziz Nassour
    Ibrahim Bah
    Youssef Mustafa Nada
    Ali Ghaleb Himmat
    Ahmed Idriss Nasreddin
    Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi
    Mariam Al-Sheikh A. Bin Aziz Al-Mubarak
    Huta Bin Laden
    Iman Bin Laden
    Ahmed Huber
    Hassan el-Banna

    September 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Reply
    • Sandy

      Thank you Pakistan by helping us bring these Indian financed bad guys to justice. Americans appreciate your contributions. Salaam to you all.

      September 21, 2012 at 8:22 am | Reply
    • closet rebel

      You have GOT to be kidding!

      September 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  6. krm1007 ©™

    Besides emerging as a regional power, the time has come for Pakistan to take the leadership role in the Islamic World and lead them to the path of progress, prosperity and glory. The only nuclear nation in the Islamic World, Pakistan has shown the world that it can stand up to the nuances of world politics on principles and partake in global affairs. Also, that it can equally contribute to the progress of this planet called Earth. The sacrifices of the Pakistani nation in making this world safe are unmatched and deserves a seat at the table of the permanent members of The UN Security Council.

    September 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
    • Sandy

      I am with you on this. Pakistan's contributions are well known and time has come to acknowledge them by giving them a bigger role regionally.

      September 21, 2012 at 8:21 am | Reply
    • Sandy

      Sorry I don't want people to mistaken me for a pro-pakistani person. In plain English, it's time to give Pakistan a BIG boot on their aS.

      September 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply

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