(NEW YORK) — Although Libyan-based Ansar al-Sharia contends it was not behind the siege at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, Libyan authorities are pointing the finger at one of the Islamist group’s leaders as being the commander of the attack.
According to published reports, investigators say that eyewitnesses of the assault allege they saw Ahmed Abu Khattala acting as commander during the well-coordinated attack the Obama administration initially believed was an outgrowth of protests against an anti-Islam film made in America.
Abu Khattala has not been seen since the Sept. 11 incident in Benghazi nor have any other possible participants of the siege belonging to Ansar al-Sharia, which is committed to establishing strict Islamic law in Libya a year after former President Moammar Gadhafi was killed and his secular government overthrown.
In Washington, State Department Victoria Nuland was asked by reporters at her Wednesday briefing about the alleged involvement of Abu Khattala.
“We’re gonna leave all of that to the FBI as they work with the Libyans to both investigate but, obviously, we are committed to ensuring that those who did this are gonna come to justice,” Nuland said.
Republicans have charged the Obama administration of trying to downplay the consulate attacks because it would weaken their argument that al Qaeda has been decimated since the death of Osama bin Laden. Ansar al-Sharia, which has some ties to the terrorist group, still considers itself more of a separate entity.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN