Benghazi suspects still on the loose
The city of Derna, Libya which remains a stronghold of militant Islamist and jihadist groups.
December 19th, 2012
08:09 PM ET

Benghazi suspects still on the loose

By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister

More than three months after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, not a single person has been charged in connection with the assault.

Most, if not all, of those questioned in Libya since the attack have been released.

A Libyan source with knowledge of the investigation, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivities involved in the probe, told CNN there are indications that the perpetrators of the attack came from beyond the Benghazi area and slipped away immediately afterward. The source says it is possible the attackers came from the city of Derna or surrounding areas, about 120 miles (200 km) to the east, which remains a stronghold of militant Islamist and jihadist groups.

The September 11 attack killed four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The State Department's independent report on security lapses in Benghazi did not focus on who was responsible as part of its mandate, review leader Ambassador Thomas Pickering said Wednesday, but the FBI continues to investigate.

Militant Islamist and jihadist groups are now flourishing in eastern Libya, the source says, and are too strong for the government to "put back in the box." Independent militias like Libyan Shield - which includes militant Islamists among its members - continue to dominate in Benghazi, and the government's security forces and judiciary are toothless.

Benghazi siege: The ambassador's last minutes

Sources monitoring the security situation in eastern Libya say that if anything, it has worsened since the attack on the consulate, with a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations of security officials. Islamist militants are blamed for many of these attacks.

One of the officials killed was Faraj Mohammed el-Drissi. He was gunned down in Benghazi in late November. Drissi had been in charge of the city's security for just one month. Of his three alleged assailants, one was subsequently arrested, the Libyan source said.

On Sunday, there was a major attack on the security headquarters in Benghazi - apparently in an effort to try to free the arrested man. The attack included the use of at least one rocket-propelled grenade, and a lengthy sun battle followed. The source told CNN four police officers were killed, but the attackers eventually fled without being able to free the man. The source says that according to local officials, the attack was launched because the detainee had begun to talk about who was behind the assassination - and had implicated a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

That man is Sufian bin Qumu, who earlier this year was believed to be operating a camp in a remote area outside Derna. His detainee assessment at the prison camp described him as having a "long-term association with Islamist extremist Jihad and members of al Qaeda and other extremist groups."

While no evidence has emerged that bin Qumu had any direct role in the Benghazi attack, Libyan intelligence officials say he is still active in the Derna area, where militants are passing through his training camps - including some former members of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group (LIFG).

Review critical of State's diplomatic security

"The main question is, to what extent is he part of al Qaeda?" asked the Libyan source.

In an interview with a local media outlet earlier this year, bin Qumu made clear that the time he spent in U.S. custody had left him embittered toward the United States, but he denied he was a supporter of violence.

Bin Qumu is thought to be setting himself up as the "emir" of a new jihadist group in eastern Libya, promoting his background as a Guantanamo detainee and former driver for Osama bin Laden's organization in Sudan in the 1990s. Now in his early 50s, he is said to be promoting his long experience in jihad to recruit followers.

That has involved some embellishment of his record, according to sources familiar with his background. Bin Qumu was never among the leadership of the LIFG. He was known as a "tough guy," says one source, but never assessed by his peers as having the skill set necessary to take on a military command position. The source also points out that bin Qumu was a driver for one of bin Laden's companies - not his terrorist group. He had a long criminal record before embracing jihad and being a relatively late arrival to LIFG ranks in Afghanistan around 1993.

One man who had allegedly been running a militant training camp in eastern Libya last year is under arrest, but not in Libya. Muhammed Jamal Abu Ahmad - a former member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad - was detained in Cairo earlier this month. Analysts believe he had ambitions to create a new terrorist network in Egypt and across North Africa. He remains in custody but has not been charged.

Problems suggest long list of changes for security of diplomats

According to Libyan intelligence officials, Jamal was suspected of setting up a camp south of Derna, where foreign jihadists as well as Libyans were being trained.

A former Egyptian jihadist told CNN Jamal was a mid-level operative in Ayman al Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1990s. He spent time in Afghanistan and Sudan before being imprisoned in Egypt in the early 2000s. After being released in the wake of President Hosni Mubarak's downfall, Jamal likely sought to reconnect with his former boss, according to another former jihadist.

The city of Derna and surrounding area has for years been a recruiting ground for al Qaeda and its affiliates. In a 2008 diplomatic cable, Chris Stevens described his visit to the area when he was a diplomat posted at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. He outlined how high youth unemployment, discrimination by the Gadhafi regime and the influence of veteran Libyan jihadists from Afghanistan all played a role in radicalizing a new generation.

He said the area was "a wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters" for al Qaeda in Iraq - fighters who may have had a role in his death four years later.

State Department upheaval follows Benghazi report

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Ms Renee

    CNN: Who are the survivors of Benghazi? Where are they? How many are there? And why the silence?

    December 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  2. Al

    So those that were "arrested" after the attack were just as mentioned, not the ones that did the killing but some DA off the street to make the noise go away for the country and the Democrats. But now the election is over so it's time to state the facts that the real killers are still walking around free and more than likely will never get caught.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply
  3. Darlene Buckingham

    The media is still calling the building a consulate – it is not – it is a USA Special Mission – the media and the USA lie to the public on a regular basis. What is really going on. How long do you think that these lies can go on, innocent people murdered by a greedy, reckless group of people who could not care a less about how their actions harm others. Take a look around Americans – your Country is sinking in more ways than one. Time to pull up the boot straps and start living with personal integrity. How can anyone in the USA have any self respect when buying the lies thrown at us every day. We are better than this. We can live in peace without this constant terror. LEts start NOW!

    December 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Noticably absent from all the discussions on this "event" in Benghazi:
      What the purpose of Amb. Stevens visit in Benghazi? He obviously felt threatened and insecure, yet he chose to stay.
      Why did Stevens not return to our protected embassy in Tripoli? He knew that no additional security was coming.
      Why did Stevens stay there for the anniversary of 9/11? A very foolish decision on his part!
      There is much more to this story. Stevens was a highly respected diplomat, and very experienced.
      This was not the result of beaurocrtic bungling in the State Department!
      Stevens remained in Benghazi for reasons unknown!

      December 21, 2012 at 8:33 am | Reply
  4. Youcan'thandlethetruth

    I am confused. CNN told me this was due to an obscure video.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  5. CW

    The headline says it all. This administration and their media sycophants view this as a law enforcement issue and not a military one. Obama and Co. clueless as ever. Hey wasn't this all over a video?

    December 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • asdf

      I suppose you want us to occupy yet another hell hole that will cost us a billion dollars every three days? Law enforcement doesn't use drones with hell fire missiles which is how these idiots will meet their end at some point soon. W Bush military approach only got the Republicans kicked out of Congress and Obama soft law enforcement approach only allowed us to kill public enemy #1.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Reply
    • Commojoe

      Yeah, but we know right where one of the people responsible for letting it happen is, sick, hurt and NOT going to testify, right? Hillary has been an embarrassment and disgrace as SOS and should be treated as such.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  6. wjmccartan

    From what I read here in the comments section I can see you don't need to worry about outside interference, when the people within the country have so much hate for one and other. This guy did this this guy did that, the future is the other way, Merry Christmas, health and happiness to you and yours.

    December 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  7. fhjkjhrefvngd

    (...)A Croatian website has reported that Zagreb recently sold S-300 missile systems to Iran. Croatia is known to have purchased the advanced anti aircraft defense systems following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The web magazine Necensurirano also reported that Libyan warships were docked at the Croatian port of Kraljevica where the missile systems were being loaded in preparation for transfer to Iran. (...)

    December 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  8. Bill

    They never learn. In Afganistan during the war with the Soviets, the U.S. government funded Pakistan and essentially allowed them to choose who to arm and support. The result was the most lethal terrorists organizations in the world, and the Taliban. In Libya, the U.S. sits back and watches Qatar arm who they favor in order to overthrow Ghaddafi, and of course, they are Islamist organizations. The same thing is happening in Syria, as the likes Sunni terrorist organizations battle with the Syrian government, Hezbollah and others. Are those who lead the U.S. intelligence that naive, or are they simply powerless to stop it at this point?

    December 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  9. disgustedvet

    Suspects still at large. This is CNN's Benghazi story. Nothing about the 4 State Dept. resignations ,nothing about the Secretary of State's mysterious "accident " ,nothing about why they are dropping like rats now after the election when everybody knows it was " A Video " that caused Benghazi. What a sham of a News Site.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      It may well be a "cover up", but the "cover up" may well be to protect Amb. Stevens!!!
      No details ever about what he was doing in Benghazi that was so dang important he couldn't leave and go back to our protected embassy in Tripoli!! Really, choosing to stay in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11 with virtually no security was a very dumb choice. Something more was the reason (maybe another amorous entanglement? Or do we really have the secret prison in Benghazi holding friends of the attackers? Much more to this whole mess, not simply beaurocratic bungling!

      December 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Reply
      • CW

        No cover-up is ever justified. Period.

        December 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  10. ug

    And nothing will ever happen to them...

    December 20, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Kelly51

      Really? You don't think that Obama will come up with a couple of poor souls that will be the great leaders patsies?

      December 20, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
  11. Evergreen

    It takes time to solve a crime that happened a half a world away in an unstable country. This is not an action movie where the good guys show up and arrest or kill the bad guys at the end of a high speed chase.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:47 am | Reply
  12. US Dollars

    Sergeant David G. Robinson
    Captain Shawn P. T. Charles
    Private 1st Class Steven F. Shapiro
    Staff Sergeant James R. Leep Jr.
    Specialist Adrian G. Mills
    Sergeant Andy C Morales
    Staff Sergeant Estevan Altamirano
    Sergeant Mark Cofield
    Specialist Daniel L. Elliott
    Sergeant Steven L. Talamantez
    Specialist Nathan R. Beyers
    Specialist Nicolas W. Newby
    Captain Matthew G. Nielson
    Captain David E. Van Camp
    Specialist Robert G. Tenney Jr.
    Specialist Matthew R. Gallagher
    Staff Sergeant Russell J. Proctor
    Private 1st Class Jeffrey Dylan Johnson
    Specialist Marcos A, Cintron
    Sergeant Glenn M. Sewell
    Staff Sergeant Nick Bellard
    Private 1st Class Matthew J. England
    Specialist Christopher B. Fishbeck
    Specialist Robert P. Hartwick

    All died in Iraq along with 4000 others.

    Where is the outrage that we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction? We went there for one reason, to settle a family dispute after Saddam tried to kill GHWB in 1991.

    Where is the outrage? LOOK at the names! Read them and don't forget.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • disgustedvet

      Don't forget who also believed Iraq had WMDs ( they did by the way and they now reside in Iran and Syria ) Most of your proud Democrat Congress men and Women. The CIA, The UN,The Security Divisions of ALL of our allies etc. Don't forget that little bit of info as well. And certainly don't forget the heroes who lost their lives giving you the right to spew your hate.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • John

      O man.. Give me a break.. You know they DID find MATERIAL to make WMD... Just no WMD on a missle ready to go... Honestly, does it take effort to be as stu pid as you... Suddam was a ruthless dictator who killed and tortured 100's of thousands of his own people and started or tried to start 3 wars the countries that surround him in a very important part of the world.... I think your mom is calling you to take your meds... might want to get up there....

      December 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      No, GW and Dick were after the oil! Cheney even told us that the Iraq War would be "revenue neutral" !!! Translation: We win, we take the oil – boy that didn't work out so well! Iraq got rid of Saddam, got their "new democracy", sold the oil to China and is now becoming best friends with Iran!
      So Dick turned to the Gulf of Mexico and created yet another big mess!!!

      December 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Reply
    • CW

      Wrong article. This is about Obama's failure to care about the lives of 4 Americans that you clearly could care less about.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  13. CalDude


    December 20, 2012 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • CommonVoice

      So, Obama personally has to chase down these guys?

      Just like Bush chased down O-bin Laden – right?

      December 20, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
      • John

        Yes... thats what people are saying.. Obama has to go track them down.. I mean he should, he took sooo much credit for getting Bin ladin....

        December 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  14. drag1

    What can I say, this is the Libya we helped create and enforce.
    As you can , nearly 16 months after Gaddafi was overthrown the country is still being run by jihadists, and other terrorist groups. The so called "democracy" that the West envisioned so far is only a distant illusion. Worst still we want to repeat this stupidity in Syria. We already created 3 failed states (IRAQ AFGANASTAN LIBYA) do we need to create more ? The whole arab world is a lot more unstable and dangerous to live in than before the Arab Spring started.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
  15. michaelfury

    And the original 9/11 suspects are still on the loose.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:30 am | Reply
  16. nasa1

    I see absolutely no reason why we can't find and prosecute the killers of our diplomats. The killings were done by people who like to brag to others after their unkind deeds. They love to tweet and put the news out on the internet. This needs to be our highest priority for redemption. If we could find Osama we can find these people.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
  17. empresstrudy

    Good. At least then he can be given a proper interview by Piers Morgan.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:28 am | Reply
    • Lori

      CNN: all the other news media this morning are carrying headlines about who is responsible at the US State Dept.

      And you headline, of "Benghazi Suspects Still on the Loose" – doesn't seem to mention who allowed this to happen on their watch on 9.11.

      The US, on 9.11.12, apologized to muslims whose feelings were hurting over a satire film, that you stated publicly, on 9.11 should not be produced, via Cairo's Embassy's web site.

      9.11.12 and the President of the US, wants restrictions on the type of movies made in California.

      And the Secretary of State has a headache now and cannot testify.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
      • Lori

        And now, 3 months later, in addition to wanting to restrict the type of movies made – (freedom of speech)
        -he wants to restrict guns.

        Whose next?

        December 20, 2012 at 8:32 am |
      • CalDude

        As always It's all for the greater good..... they know what's good for you.

        December 20, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  18. Muqard

    Obama has more important things to do, like ban guns, to worry about something as petty as catching these murderers...

    December 20, 2012 at 7:06 am | Reply
  19. stan

    Thought Obama said those who were responsible would be brought ot justice? But when he never said...this is beginning to look like the hunt for OBL wonder how long this will take..

    December 20, 2012 at 6:06 am | Reply
  20. Jaws3119

    Obumer was too busy trying to get re-elected to worry about an investigation involving 4 dead americans. Besides, it was only 4 white guys?

    December 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Reply
    • 210

      4 people were fired thanks to the investigation. i dont care for obama either, but be reasonable at least. you cant blame him for every single thing.

      December 20, 2012 at 1:15 am | Reply
      • stan

        1 resigned and 3 have been relieved of duty, which means untill the dust settles they are on leave, i.e. vacation..

        December 20, 2012 at 6:03 am |
      • CW

        We sure as heck can blame him for this! He lied about a video being the cause. He watched live on video while they were slaughtered. He failed to call in air support that was a half hour away during a multiple hour siege.

        December 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  21. Brian Smith

    Exactly going to plan – the USA destabilizing the middle east is the best outcome that could have happened. All these dictators are gone, the people are now free to fight amongst themselves, and yet, without any threat to the USA somehow the TSA survives...

    December 19, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
    • 210

      brian, there is no threat to USA? lol since when.
      trust me, there will ALWAYS be people that try to make plans to harm us. we cant let our guard down even for a second.

      December 20, 2012 at 1:07 am | Reply
    • CW

      II will give you that. Better that these 7th century losers kill each other first.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  22. Mohamiss Shafique-Kaddir

    Obama will do nothing .
    Obama does not want to seem being at war with Islam .
    Islam won this battle , America lost .
    Inshallah , Allah will have his justice .
    Islam is peace , know Islam , and know peace .

    December 19, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Reply
    • 210

      what exactly did america lose? the whole world now views muslims as crazy, death loving people. congrats bin laden. you alienated your own religion forever. allah wouldnt be very happy...

      December 20, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
      • ug

        We lost 4 Americans idiot.

        December 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |

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