Evidence is mounting that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was planned by terrorists, and not solely a result of mob violence, as first suspected.
"The idea that this was just a protest gone wrong, that this was a grassroots angry mob that overran this facility—that seems less and less likely," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported on Thursday.
Initially, officials believed that an anti-Muslim film made by a California man had inspired the rioting in Benghazi, Libya. But it now seems that, though the riot was real, terrorists used the riot as cover to launch their own attack on the U.S. Consulate.
On Thursday's The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow outlined some of the evidence suggesting that some of the bloodshed was planned by extremists, with outrage over the film serving only as a pretext.
For example, all the way back in 2008, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens—who was killed Tuesday—warned about growing jihadist sentiment in Derna, which is near Benghazi. Derna, he said, was becoming a new hub for terrorist training.
Furthermore, on May 22 of this year, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Benghazi. The attackers filmed the entire assault, and repeatedly referred to Al-Qaeda. A group demanding the release of Omar Abdul Rahman, currently jailed in North Carolina in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, claimed responsibility for the attack. Stevens was also killed by a rocket in the attack on the consulate—not the sort of artillery any random rioter is likely to be carrying.
A month after the attack on the Red Cross, a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed Al-Qaeda's second-in-command in Yemen, Abu Yahya al-Libi. Al-Qaeda urged Libyans to attack Americans to avenge the militant's death. Not long after the call went out, the group representing Rahman claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device outside the U.S. Consulate in Libya. The same group also took credit for an attack on a U.K. envoy in Benghazi.
On September 11, 2012, the day of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, Al-Qaeda again called on its followers to avenge Al-Libi's death.
NPR's Leila Fadel has also asked if the consulate attack was planned. She reported that Libya's Deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al Sharef, said the assault "was a sophisticated two-prong attack." Fadel added, "A lot of the witnesses that we've spoken to—neighbors, the son of the landlord, a Libyan guard who was wounded during the first part of the attack on Tuesday night—all say there was no protest at all. They say that it began as an organized attack on the consulate."
"This is not about that movie, that stupid anti-Islam movie that is driving the protests in Cairo and around the world," Maddow concluded. The slaying of four Americans in Benghazi, she said, "appears to be militant, armed, intentionally directed terrorism by an organized group. If it is not an Al-Qaeda attack, it is an Al Qaeda-style attack."