The State Department released its official designation of three new terrorist groups and their leaders today, and all three have a record of attacking U.S. diplomatic facilities: Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, which attacked Tunis’s U.S. embassy and the city’s American school on September 14, 2012, and Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia in Derna, both of which were involved in the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. The release identifies the leader of the last of the three, Sufian bin Qumu, who trained with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, fought the U.S. during the liberation of that country, and spent several years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured in Pakistan.
Sufian bin Qumu is now a specially designated “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” as is . . . Abu Khattalah, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, who was present at the 9/11/12 attacks and whom the New York Times dismissed as a mere incompetent local militia leader who just happens to agree entirely with al-Qaeda’s ideology and support the group’s global program of terror.
“We remain committed to working with the Libyan government to bring the perpetrators of the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks to justice and to ensure the safety of our personnel serving overseas,” the State Department’s release says.
All three Ansar al-Sharia groups arose separately, the designation notes, but the two groups in Libya increasingly appear to be connected — especially since the U.S. government now suspects that both were present at and involved in the Benghazi attack. The one in Tunisia may be the most closely affiliated with the global al-Qaeda network (though bin Qumu is a key personal connection to al-Qaeda for the Derna group) — State explains that it “is ideologically aligned with al-Qa’ida and tied to its affiliates, including AQIM [and] represents the greatest threat to U.S. interests in Tunisia.”
That means, combined with the attack on the U.S.’s Cairo embassy led by the brother of al-Qaeda’s current global head, that the assaults on U.S. embassies all over the world on September 11, 2012, look less like protests that turned violent and more like coordinated violence instigated by the al-Qaeda network, blended with some popularly demonstrated anger. (For more on this, read Tom Joscelyn of FDD’s superb and much more detailed post at The Weekly Standard on today’s announcement.)