Investigators have found no solid evidence that al-Qaida plotted the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, the New York Times said.
An extensive report on the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2012, sacking of the Benghazi consulate said the evidence pointed instead to Libyan militias that were notably anti-American but also did not have any known ties to al-Qaida.
"Benghazi was not infiltrated by al-Qaida, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests," the article published this weekend said. "The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs."
The conclusions in effect split the difference in the simmering political quarrel in Washington over the notion the Obama administration both ignored and then whitewashed the threat al-Qaida supposedly posed to the U.S. mission. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff were killed when the consulate was overrun.
"The reality in Benghazi was different, and murkier, than either of those story lines suggests," the article said. The White House had no immediate comment on the story, CNN said.
The Times found that Stevens and other U.S. officials in Libya were indeed on the lookout for al-Qaida, but were also actively courting the local militias in an attempt to build an alliance against more-militant groups sprouting up in the aftermath of the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.
"It (the United States) believed it could draw a bright line between friends and enemies in Libya," the Times said. "But it ultimately lost its ambassador in an attack that involved both avowed opponents of the West and fighters belonging to militias that the Americans had taken for allies."
The newspaper concluded that the focus on al-Qaida may have clouded the view of the diplomats and intelligence operatives to the level of hostility among the militias and the volatile threat posed by an Internet video that drew angry protesters to the consulate.
The Times said evidence appeared to point to an attack by militias that had been watching the consulate and used an angry mob as cover.
Original headline: Report: No al-Qaida role found in Benghazi consulate attack
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