The US Embassy in Libya warned Saturday of an “imminent” attack in the capital Tripoli.
In a statement on its website, the embassy said the attack would target a vital national institution in the Libyan capital, without giving further details.
Citing open source reports, the embassy said the area of the Central Post Office on Zawiyah Street in central Tripoli was cordoned off after possible improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were discovered.
But the Libyan Interior Ministry quickly denied the discovery of IEDs in central Tripoli. In a statement, the ministry said it had seized suspicious packages in the post office.
“Initial reports, however, suggested that there were no IEDs or explosives inside these packages,” it added.
The US Embassy in Libya is currently operating from neighbouring Tunisia.
Libya has remained beset by violence turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.
Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power – one in Al-Bayda and another in Tripoli – along with a host of heavily-armed militia groups.
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police say they have detained eight people after the U.S. Embassy in Athens was vandalized with paint.
Police said Monday the eight were detained after about 10 people on motorbikes threw red paint at the embassy’s parking entrance at around 3:30 a.m. local time. An anarchist group known as Rouvikonas claimed responsibility for the attack in an internet post.
It cited “American imperialism” as well as Greece’s deal with neighbouring Macedonia for the latter to change its name to North Macedonia in return for NATO membership, and the recent US decision to pull out of Syria, a move it said delivers Kurdish forces there “to the semi-fascist state of Turkey.”
Rouvikonas has carried out similar paint attacks in the past against embassies, Greek state organisations and political party offices.
————–Back Story From AFP
Two Greek anarchists were arrested Monday after hurling red paint at the US embassy in Athens, police said.
A further eight members of the Rubicon Anarchist Collective were also detained but later released over the incident, which caused minor material damage but no injuries, police added.
The Greek foreign ministry condemned an action it said undermined “longstanding friendly relations between the two peoples and the strategic relationship between Greece and the United States (which is) crucial for our country and the region.”
The Rubicon group, which regards Washington’s interventions in numerous regions including the nearby Balkans as “imperialism”, arrived outside the embassy in the early hours and sprayed the entrance before police intervened.
Another gripe is the planned US withdrawal of troops from Syria, which the group said would “abandon the Kurds into Syria’s hands”.
Rubicon has carried out a number of similar acts on embassies, banks and public buildings in recent years, causing some material damage but no injury.
Last October, the group daubed paint over the facade of the Canadian embassy to protest the presence of a Canadian gold mining firm in northern Greece.
A month earlier, Rubicon targeted the Iranian embassy in “solidarity” with Iranian Kurds. Media reports say it plans to join a January 17 meeting of other anarchist organisations in Rome.
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Suicide attackers storm Libyan foreign ministry in Tripoli, killing at least three. ISIS claims responsibility.
Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 12/28/2018B
DAR Note: Our Trusted source on the Ground in Tripoli has reported that the current situation in Libya is worse than it has been since 2014. Tribal Clashes and are approaching a full-scale civil war. A terrorist element is also engaged in an active campaign to discourage all foreign powers from having a presence or influence inside of Libya. Most nations have already withdrawn from the country.
Suicide attackers on Tuesday stormed the Libyan foreign ministry in the capital Tripoli, killing at least three people including a senior civil servant, the authorities said, according to AFP.
21 other people were wounded in what authorities said was a suicide attack carried out by “terrorists”.
A car bomb exploded near the ministry, prompting security forces to rush to the scene, said special forces spokesman Tarak al-Dawass.
A suicide bomber then blew himself up on the second floor of the building while a second attacker died when a suitcase he was carrying exploded, he added.
A third assailant, who was unarmed and wearing a bulletproof vest, was killed by security forces outside, said Dawass.
The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group later claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Reuters.
The group said in its propaganda news agency, Amaq, that three of its members carried out the attack.
Foreign Minister Tahar Siala said one of the dead was senior diplomat Ibrahim al-Shaibi who headed a department in his ministry.
Libya has been rocked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, with two rival authorities and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.
Forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) regained control of Sirte in December 2016 after eight months of deadly fighting.
Since then, some jihadists have returned to the desert in an attempt to regroup and reorganize.
Last year, the Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is accused by Washington of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans, announced its “dissolution”.
Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi in the chaos following the death of Qaddafi. Members of the group overran the city in 2014 and later declared authority over the coastal city of Darna.
Most of Ansar al-Sharia’s members have defected to ISIS in recent years.
10/15/2018 Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep CAIRO — Embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions worldwide are often considered places of sanctuary, however, not all have been impervious to horrific incidents.
When Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week it prompted Turkish officials and media to claim he may have been killed and even dismembered by a squad of assassins on the premises. The macabre mystery stirred memories of instances when diplomatic missions turned into places of terror.
Brutal killings, suicide bombings, militant raids and hostage crises — embassies and consulates have seen plenty of tragedy and bloodshed.
Here are just some of many examples:
BENGHAZI, ATTACK ON U.S. COMPOUNDS IN LIBYA
Libyan extremists from the militant Ansar al-Shariah group attacked two U.S. compounds — a diplomatic post and a CIA annex nearby — in the city of Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, setting off a night of rampage that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, and gutted the buildings. Last year, a jury in Washington convicted 47-year-old Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khattala on multiple terrorism-related charges for his role in the attacks.
AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY BOMBING IN JAKARTA
Suspected Muslim militants detonated a car bomb outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 9, 2004, killing eight people, including an embassy guard, policemen on duty, two embassy workers and a visa applicant.
MYANMAR EMBASSY SIEGE IN BANGKOK
A shadowy group known as the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors stormed the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Oct. 7, 1999. They took 38 hostages to demand democracy in their country, also known as Burma. Thailand allowed them to fly to the border, angering Myanmar but ending the standoff without bloodshed.
U.S. BOMBING OF CHINESE EMBASSY IN BELGRADE
NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by mistake on May 8, 1999, killing three Chinese reporters. In China, protesters retaliated by attacking U.S. missions.
AL-QAIDA BOMBINGS OF U.S. EMBASSIES IN EAST AFRICA
Al-Qaida launched near-simultaneous truck bombings on Aug. 7, 1998, targeting U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people. Most of the victims were Kenyans but 12 Americans also died. The mastermind behind the attacks, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, eluded capture for 13 years before he was gunned down at a security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, a month after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in Pakistan in May 2011.
ISLAMIC JIHAD’S ATTACK ON EGYPTIAN EMBASSY IN PAKISTAN
A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-packed truck into the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad on Nov. 19, 1995, killing 15 people, including the second secretary of the embassy and three Egyptian security guards. Egypt handed down a death sentence in absentia to its citizen Ayman al-Zawahri, who led the militant group and later merged it with al-Qaida, for this attack. Al-Zawahri succeeded bin Laden as al-Qaida’s chief.
JAPANESE EMBASSY HOSTAGE CRISIS IN PERU
Leftist Tupac Amaru rebels seized the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, on Dec. 17, 1996, during a party celebrating Emperor Akihito’s birthday, taking diplomats, guests and government officials hostage and demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. The rebels held 72 hostages for 126 days before government troops stormed the premises; one hostage, two commandos and all rebels were killed. The story inspired the best-seller “Bel Canto” by U.S. author Ann Patchett.
ATTACKS ON ISRAELI EMBASSY, JEWISH CENTER IN ARGENTINA
A bomb flattened the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires on March 18, 1992, killing 29 people, including four Israelis. Two years later, a Jewish community center in the city was bombed, killing 85 people — the deadliest bombing ever in Argentina. Israel and Argentina have long accused Iran of being behind the bombings. Iran has denied any role in the attacks.
BEIRUT, U.S. EMBASSY BOMBING
A suicide bombing on April 18, 1983, at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killed 63 people, including 17 Americans. The victims were mostly embassy and CIA staff, but also several U.S. soldiers and a Marine. It was the deadliest attack on an American diplomatic mission up to that time. A shadowy Shiite group calling itself Islamic Holy War took responsibility.
IRAN, U.S. EMBASSY IN TEHRAN
Militant Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and took 52 Americans hostages. The attackers demanded the return of the shah to Iran to face trial. President Jimmy Carter refused and launched a failed commando raid to free the captives. Six Americans who fled the initial takeover and found refuge with the Canadian ambassador later escaped Iran with the CIA’s help. Their escape was dramatized in the 2012 film “Argo.” Iran held the hostages for 444 days, releasing them only after the 1981 inauguration of President Ronald Reagan.
WEST GERMAN EMBASSY SIEGE IN STOCKHOLM
German anarchists of the Red Army Faction shot their way into the West German Embassy in Stockholm on April 24, 1975, demanding the release of their comrades from prisons back home. They took 12 embassy staff hostage, including Ambassador Dietrich Stoecher. During the standoff with the Swedish police, the attackers killed the military and the economic attachés before accidentally blowing up a part of the building.
ATTACK ON SAUDI EMBASSY IN KHARTOUM
The Palestinian terror group Black September attacked the Saudi Embassy in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, during a formal reception on March 1, 1973 and took 10 diplomats hostage. After President Richard Nixon refused to negotiate with the attackers, three Western hostages were killed, including George Curtis Moore, the U.S. chargé d’affaires.
ISRAELI EMBASSY IN BANGKOK HOSTAGE CRISIS
The Black September faction took over the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok on Dec. 28, 1972, and held six Israeli embassy staff hostage. The hijackers agreed after negotiations to leave in exchange for safe conduct to Egypt.
YUGOSLAV EMBASSY IN STOCKHOLM
Two Croatian separatists stormed the Yugoslav Embassy in Stockholm on April 7, 1971, where they held and mortally wounded Ambassador Vladimir Rolovic. The attackers were later caught and convicted in Sweden. One of them, Miro Baresic, was released in 1972 as part of demands by Croatian hijackers of a Swedish domestic flight. He was later extradited from Paraguay to Sweden to serve the remainder of his sentence.
The U.S. has officially blamed Iran for recent attacks near Washington’s diplomatic presence in Iraq, where the two powers have competed for influence in the latest venue of a decades-long feud sparked by an embassy hostage crisis.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that “Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq” and was “to blame for the attacks against our mission in Basra and our embassy in Baghdad,” adding that his department’s “intelligence in this regard is solid.” Iran has the support of a number of semi-official Shiite Muslim militias across Iraq, and Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias” against the two U.S. sites in a Friday statement announcing the closure of the consulate general in the southern city of Basra.
Iran, whose own consulate general in Basra was burned down last month, has rejected these charges. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said Saturday that “the ridiculous justification [provided by Americans] for the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Basra, which came after weeks of propaganda and false allegations against Iran and the Iraqi forces, is a suspicious move aimed at evading responsibility and pinning the blame on others responsibility and pinning the blame on others”
As unrest once again grips Iraq, the ripples of a long-standing dispute between the U.S. and Iran has again highlighted a history of both countries targeting one another’s diplomats.
Poisoned relations between the U.S. and Iran began in 1979. Prior to that, Iran was under the rule of the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the U.S. stepped in to protect British oil interests when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh challenged the monarch’s absolute power and tried to nationalize the energy sector. With Mossadegh deposed and imprisoned in a 1953 CIA-sponsored coup, Pahlavi went on to rule for another quarter of a century before he himself was forced to flee the Islamic Revolution, which brought the current revolutionary Shiite Muslim government into power.
Upset over Western meddling in Iranian affairs and demanding that an ill Pahlavi be extradited to face justice at home, supporters of the new clerical administration overran the U.S. Embassy and held 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens hostage. A U.S. Army attempt to rescue the detainees by force ended in failure when a helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft, killing eight soldiers. An Iranian civilian was also killed when U.S. forces bombed the truck he was riding in.
The hostages were ultimately released on the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 following extensive negotiations. Although the U.S. would go on to secretly sell arms to Iran while also supporting Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, relations between Washington and Tehran were effectively squashed. Their relationship further deteriorated with growing Iranian support for foreign Shiite Muslim movements such as the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of whom have been blamed for the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut—an attack that killed up to 63 people, including 17 U.S. officials and soldiers.
The U.S. officially embargoed Iranian trade in 1995 and these sanctions expanded as Iran embarked on a nuclear program, which Tehran always maintained was solely for peaceful purposes. Though Iran was a bitter opponent of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it also backed Shiite Muslim insurgents targeting U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion that toppled him as it expanded ties with the new majority-Shiite Muslim administration in Baghdad. In January 2007, the U.S. raided the Iranian Liaison Office in Erbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Region, accusing five staff members of being agents of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and detaining them.
The local Kurdish government, which had ties to both the U.S. and Iran, vouched for the individuals and prevented the U.S. from detaining other individuals at Erbil’s airport. The five liaison office employees were ultimately released two and a half years later in 2009 as part of the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which sought to establish a framework for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran remained largely frozen until President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began negotiations to lift international sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to considerably restrict its nuclear activities. A multinational accord endorsed by both parties, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., was announced in June 2015.
President Donald Trump, however, has accused Iran of using unfrozen funds to further destabilize the region via support for paramilitary movements and the development of ballistic missiles. Capitalizing on conservative outrage toward the nuclear deal, he demanded that the terms be renegotiated, something that Iran has refused to consider. Even as both the U.S. and Iran devoted assets toward battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), relations again declined rapidly and Trump announced that he would leave the nuclear agreement in May.
The Trump administration has continued to press the international community to isolate Iran, even without the support of European allies and major powers China and Russia. The U.S. has increasingly aligned its position with that of longtime Iranian foes Israel and Saudi Arabia, which itself severed ties with the Islamic Republic after protestors responded to the kingdom’s execution of an influential Shiite Muslim cleric by torching Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran in early 2016.
As the US embassy moves to Jerusalem amid high security, history teaches that US diplomatic missions can become targets.
For many in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is anything but diplomatic.
It risks alienating important partners in the region and disqualifying Washington as a neutral broker to negotiate peace in the region. Already, it has contributed to Palestinian anger, as seen in the current protests on the border between Gaza and Israel, with deadly results.
Benghazi 2012: This Stars and Stripes flag was found after the attack on the US diplomatic mission (Reuters)
Yet if history has taught anything, it is that Trump, a self-styled expert dealmaker, may end up getting more than he bargained for.
When disaster does strike, American prestige and policy can suffer with high-flying political careers dashed
American diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa, as the representatives of the country in the region, can become lightning rods for anti-US sentiment, sometimes resulting in death and destruction.
And when disaster does strike, the reverberations can be felt worldwide, with American prestige and policy suffering and high-flying political careers dashed.
Tehran 1924: Lynching heralds martial law
Any discussion of US diplomacy and Iran triggers recollections of the 1979 crisis and the Islamic Revolution. Yet US diplomats had fallen victim to events in the region long before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to power.
In 1924, Robert Whitney Imbrie, a major in the US army, was the American vice-consul in Tehran. A spy-adventurer, his pre-foreign service exploits included successfully bringing a live gorilla from the Congo to New York and volunteering for the French army’s ambulance service during World War One.
Before taking his position at the US embassy in Iran, Imbrie gained a reputation as a hot-headed, fearless and vehemently anti-Bolshevik American agent, once using his walking stick to beat the head of the Soviet secret police department in Petrograd.
Ironically, Imbrie spent much of his working life undermining what he regarded as godless Soviets – but it was religious fanatics who were to determine his fate.
In July of that year, he took a carriage to inspect an angry crowd of anti-Bahai protesters in the center of Tehran. The protesters were gathered around a well that was rumored to have miraculous healing powers. But now the Bahais, a religious minority, had been accused of poisoning the font.
Imbrie approached, carrying a camera to take photographs for the National Geographic Society and accompanied by his bodyguard, a burly oilfield worker.
But soon he drew attention from the crowd, some of who accused him of being a Bahai.
He was attacked, badly beaten and rushed to a nearby hospital, where the mob then forced their way into the operating theatre and killed him.
Understandably, Imbrie’s death was a source of tension between Tehran and Washington, which demanded justice. Eventually, a soldier and two teenagers were found, accused and executed.
The incident also cast doubt on the safety of foreigners in Iran, as US newspapers fretted about security and religious fanaticism in the region.
The New York Times wrote that Iranian authorities should “cease to resort to appeals to the fanatical instincts which permeate not only the mob but also a large proportion of the intelligentsia” and urged Tehran to better protect foreigners in future.
This it did, when Iranian Prime Minister Reza Khan declared martial law, using the crisis to consolidate his power before eventually assuming the Iranian throne.
WAK Fraser, the British military attache at the time, noted how “the event gave him … the excuse for declaring martial law and a censorship of the press… Numerous arrests have been made, chiefly political opponents of the prime minister.”
Imbrie was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery. But his death had opened a new chapter in Iranian politics.
Tehran 1979: Hostages and revolution
Fifty-five years later, a second crisis involving American diplomats heralded another significant shift in US-Iranian relations.
In early 1979, the US embassy in Tehran was a long, two-story redbrick building standing on an avenue in central Tehran, the scene of intense US-Iranian cooperation which neither government expected to be broken.
The US embassy is stormed by Iranian students in Tehran in 1979 (Wiki)
Popularly likened to an American high school in appearance, the mission was known as “Henderson High”, a reference to Loy Henderson, its first US ambassador.
“It was like any other embassy, except the relationship of the United States and Iran was very close,” says Iranian-American historian Shaul Bakhash at George Mason University in Virginia.
“The shah worked closely with the Americans on diplomatic issues, on regional security, on the sharing of intelligence.”
But all that changed in February 1979, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and son of Reza Khan, was deposed by the Islamic Revolution.
At first, Washington managed to uphold an uneasy relationship with the new Iranian government, despite the revolutionary fervor in Tehran.
But when the US granted Reza Shah asylum in May of that year, the hardliners had all the reason they needed to target the embassy.
‘It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments’
– Shaul Bakhash, academic
A group of students stormed the building on 4 November, taking 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage and parading them blindfolded and bound in front of television cameras.
“I was in Iran at the time and I must say the images were electrifying,” Bakhash said. “It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments.”
The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days, was the death of President Jimmy Carter’s administration. His downfall was fuelled by the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, which resulted in the deaths of eight US service personnel in the desert southeast of Tehran.
The release of the hostages in January 1981 was regarded as an early victory for Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan, who was sworn in as president just minutes before they were freed.
But the crisis was catastrophic for US-Iranian relations, which have never recovered and are currently at a new low following the rejection by US President Donald Trump of the Iran nuclear deal.
Today the Tehran embassy – popularly known as the “den of espionage” in Iran – is a museum, standing as a monument to a shattered relationship.
Murals and posters criticising American and Israeli “arrogance” cover the walls, while various encryption devices and communication equipment are displayed behind glass screens, proof the Iranians say of Washington’s meddling overseas.
“For the Iranians it showed that the United States could be beaten,” says Bakhash.
Beirut 1983: Bombed into retrenchment
In early 1983, the US embassy in Lebanon was nothing if not picturesque, nestled as it was next to the American University of Beirut’s leafy campus and boasting vistas of the Mediterranean.
Journalist Kai Bird, who lived in the mission as a child, says: “The Beirut embassy was right on the corniche, a lovely venue. Any Lebanese, any American could just walk right into the embassy, say hello to the marine guards, state their business and get an appointment to see somebody.”
A bulldozer demolishes the bombed-out US embassy in Beirut in 1983 (Reuters).
Such openness in 2018 is unimaginable, as a visit to any US mission across the world will prove, in part due to the devastating suicide bombing in Beirut that took 63 lives and changed the American diplomacy forever.
In April 1983, Lebanon was eight years into a bloody civil war, which would eventually leave an estimated 150,000 dead and not end till 1990.
On the 18th of that month, a truck loaded with explosives drove into the US embassy and detonated.
Packing more than 900 kg of explosives, the truck bomb tore apart the embassy’s entire facade, as the explosion shattered windows across west Beirut.
Seventeen Americans, 32 Lebanese employees of the embassy and 14 passersby and visitors were killed, including some of the CIA’s top agents.
Beirut in 1983 was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today
It was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today. Likely directed by Iranian intelligence, the attack was carried out by Islamic Jihad, a militant group that later grew into Hezbollah.
It was also the first of several attacks on the US in the city. In October 1983, two truck bombs targeted at an international peacekeeping force killed more than 300 people, including 241 US peacekeepers. And in September 1984, 24 people were killed by a car bomb attack on the US embassy annex in east Beirut.
The attacks drew strong rhetoric and promise to see the mission through from then-US President Reagan. But by February 1984 the American military presence in Lebanon began to be drawn down, with the British, French and Italian forces following suit.
“There’d never been a military-scale attack on a US embassy before and I think it inaugurated a new form of warfare. It changed the whole landscape of US diplomacy – literally, the architecture changed.”
In an attempt to avoid a repetition of such a disaster, US embassies and missions worldwide now sit behind layer upon layer of security.
Many invariably resemble fortresses, set in isolated locations and sat behind thick walls, high fences and dozens of cameras. The former US embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square, for example, was constructed during the 1950s. Security increased over the decades, until the area on one side of the residential square was cordoned off. The new embassy, in Vauxhall, opened in December 2017, is on open ground and surrounded by a semi-moat.
But such security has its disadvantages. “Since 1983, the average diplomat is extremely isolated, and it’s very hard for them to develop friendships and contacts with local journalists,” says Bird
“So that’s had a very real impact on the daily routine and life of the average American diplomat. It’s terrible and it sends completely the wrong message. It sends a message to the average person in Lebanon or Egypt or Nepal or India that you can’t approach America, that we Americans are fearful.”
Benghazi 2012: The lingering legacy
Missions in Tripoli, Kuwait City, Jeddah, Damascus, Sanaa, Istanbul, Cairo and Tunis have all witnessed bombs, assaults or riots. A suicide bombing in Ankara in 2013, which killed one person, is just one of the more recent examples.
An armed man in the US consulate compound in Benghazi in September 2012 (AFP)
But none has had quite the political reverberations in recent years as the attack on the US temporary mission facility in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 2012, Libya was emerging as splintered and unstable country after the uprising and NATO operation that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi the previous year.
Benghazi had been the cradle of the revolution against Gaddafi’s regime. Stevens was in the city promoting democracy and American friendship, as the US considered making its presence in the eastern Libyan city permanent. It was to cost him his life.
On the 11th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the militant group Ansar al-Sharia staged an assault on the US mission.
Coming at the compound from all angles, the militants broke through the security using heavy weapons, RPGs and grenades. Once inside, the assailants started a fire, filling the Americans’ hiding place with smoke. Stevens managed to escape the building and was taken to a nearby hospital, but eventually died of smoke inhalation.
The unexpected attack and the diplomat’s death shocked America: according to David Des Roches at the National Defense University, it was also a wakeup call for US policy in Libya.
“It showed that the country had descended into something that was sub-national,” says Des Roches.
“Right now, when people look at Libya, it’s basically divided along the lines the Emperor Constantine divided it at the time of the Roman Empire.”
But Benghazi’s more enduring legacy was, perhaps, seen not in Libya but 8,000km away in the White House.
The attack sparked a lengthy inquiry, and exposed then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of an external email server – a scandal that plagued her 2016 run for the presidency.
“In her memoirs secretary Clinton attributes her defeat to the fact that additional emails were unearthed just five days before the election,” says Des Roches. “Well, we only found out that those emails existed because of the inquiries into Benghazi.
So if you take Secretary Clinton’s analysis, if not for Benghazi [then] she would be president today.”
Going by the same logic, Donald Trump would not be sat behind a desk in the Oval Office – and Washington would not have decided to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Egypt’s military court on Monday handed down a death sentence to one individual and life imprisonment sentences to four others over their involvement in a 2015 attack on the Embassy of Niger in Cairo.
It also handed ten- and five-year prison terms to 12 and five defendants in the case, respectively.
The court also acquitted eight defendants, who can appeal the sentences.
The case dates back to July 2015, when gunmen opened fire at security forces outside the Embassy of Niger on Haram Street in Giza, killing a police conscript and injuring two low-ranking policemen as well as a embassy employee.
According to investigations conducted by the High State Security Prosecution, the defendants attacked the embassy to publicly declare the presence of the Daesh terrorist organization in the Egyptian capital, with the prosecution adding that the defendants have confessed to pledging allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
They have also confessed to establishing a terrorist cell aimed at carrying out attacks in the country, as well as targeting police forces and shops owned by Egyptian Coptic Christians.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two men pleaded guilty on Thursday to felony assault in a street brawl in May near the Turkish embassy in Washington during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Sinan Narin, 45, of McLean, Virginia, and Eyup Yildirim, 50, of Manchester, New Jersey each pleaded guilty to one count of assault in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Sentencing for the two is scheduled for March 15, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The May 16 clash between Turkish security personnel and demonstrators protesting against Erdogan’s government strained relations between Turkey and the United States. Eleven people were hurt. In June U.S. prosecutors charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault.
Turkey blamed the brawl outside its ambassador’s residence on demonstrators linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, while Washington’s police chief referred to it as a “brutal attack” on peaceful protesters.
According to the plea deals released by the Justice Department on Thursday, a pro-Erdogan crowd that day “outnumbered the protesters by at least two to one.”
Prosecutors said Narin, who was employed as a limousine driver and was not associated with Turkish security personnel, was captured on video kicking a protester who then suffered a concussion.
Yildirim was also captured on video kicking another protester, prosecutors said. That protester also suffered a concussion and needed five stitches. He is also not associated with Turkish security personnel, the Justice Department said.
SANAA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — A fire ripped through the building of the Iranian embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sunday during clashes between the Houthis and loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Xinhua reporter on the scene witnessed.
The fire broke out after being attacked by heavy weapons, but it remained unknow who were responsible for the attack.
A security official said that about 20 embassy’s staff members were trapped inside the building.
The Houthis and supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had fought together since March 2015 the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports the internationally-recognized government led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
But clashes have erupted between the Houthi rebels and Saleh supporters in the past week, as Saleh signaled his willingness to open a “new page” in his relations with the Saudi-led coalition.
A US jury on Tuesday acquitted accused militant Ahmed Abu Khatallah of the most serious charges he faced in connection with a 2012 attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The jury in US District Court for the District of Columbia found Khatallah guilty on only four of the 18 counts he faced and acquitted him on murder and other charges, according to the Justice Department.
He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, one count of providing material support to terrorists, one count of maliciously destroying property and one count of using and carrying a semi-automatic weapon during a violent crime, according to a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The jury reached its verdict after five days of deliberations.
Khatallah is the first person to be tried in connection with the 2012 attack in Benghazi. A second person alleged to be involved, Mustafa al-Imam, made his first court appearance earlier this month.
The attack, which coincided with the 11th anniversary of 9/11, was carried out by some 20 men armed with grenades and heavy weapons.
Stevens and the second State Department official, Sean Smith, died of smoke inhalation after the consulate caught fire, while the two CIA contractors, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed in the firefight by mortar rounds.
The case marks a major test of the government’s ability to capture and try alleged terrorists in civilian courts rather than military proceedings.
Prosecutors acknowledged that Khatallah did not directly participate in the attack on the US consulate or nearby CIA annex. Rather, they sought to convince the jury that he helped orchestrate it behind the scenes.
Khatallah was captured in 2014 by US military and FBI officials in Libya and transported to the United States aboard a Navy vessel.
He was first questioned by US intelligence officials and later by the FBI. Khatallah waived his right to speak first with an attorney, and prosecutors used his statements in the trial.
They also presented evidence including phone records showing that the defendant made calls to his associates right before they were captured on grainy videos participating in the attack and testimony from a variety of witnesses.
Defence attorneys for Khatallah said the witnesses lacked credibility, especially one witness who was paid $7 million to inform on their client and lure to him the place where he was captured.
In August, the court ruled against his lawyers’ motion to suppress whatever he told his interrogators as evidence because his rights to remain silent, knowing the charges against him, and having a lawyer present were violated.
His lawyers also argued that the lengthy 13-day trip by ship back to the United States was part of a scheme to extract information from him without legal protections.
Khatallah faces a statutory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for each of the two terrorism charges, 20 years for the property destruction charge and 10 years for the firearms offence.
The Benghazi attack led to a political firestorm in Washington that factored into the 2016 presidential elections, where Republicans repeatedly accused then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton of failing to adequately protect the diplomatic compound.
MOSCOW, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — Russia on Monday denounced the latest mortar attack on its embassy in Syria‘s capital Damascus, which caused damage to certain building facilities.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, a mortar shelling hit hit the fence of the Russian Embassy close to a building of its residential quarter, causing damages to power transmission lines and water supply system.
None of the staff in the embassy were injured, the ministry added.
Noting that the embassy was purposefully targeted, the ministry also called upon the United Nations Security Council to condemn the “brazen action”.
The Russian embassy in Damascus has been shelled several times since Moscow started to participate in anti-terrorism operations in Syria in September 2015.
The Russian air force is currently providing support to the advancing Syrian government troops in the east of the country against Islamic State (IS) terrorists.
Dozens of strikes have been launched by Russian bombers and submarines near Abu Kamal, one of the last IS strongholds in Syria, since the beginning of November.
The 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in Libya killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens. Tomorrow, a jury will continue deliberating in the case of Abu Ahmed Khattala, who is accused of organizing the attack. Adam Goldman of The New York Times joins Megan Thompson with more details.
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Tomorrow a jury in Washington D.C. resumes deliberations in the first trial stemming from the September 11th 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. For the past seven weeks federal prosecutors have tried to prove defendant Abu Ahmed Khattala was a ringleader of the attack. Yesterday I spoke with New York Times reporter Adam Goldman who’s been covering the trial. Can you tell us who Abu Ahmed Khattala is and what is he accused of?
Well Abu Ahmed Khattala is a militia leader who lived in Benghazi and he’s simply accused of orchestrating the attacks on September 11th, 2012 on the U.S. diplomatic mission in which the ambassador was killed and another State Department employee, and a secret CIA base about a mile away in which two CIA contractors were killed.
I understand that building the case against him was a very complicated. There was even an informant that was who was paid $7 million. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Sure. This was an extraordinary difficult case for the FBI to build against Khattala mainly because the FBI couldn’t get into Benghazi to handle the informant. Typically in these types of situations the FBI agents who actually handle the informant. But in this situation they actually had to hand it off to military commanders who snuck into Libya and debriefed the informant every four months. They started working with the informant the end of 2012. It took took a long time for him to get what he needed from Khattala before they were satisfied they could move forward with the prosecution.
You attended several days of the trial. Can you just talk to us a little bit about what it was like? I understand that some of the witnesses had to testify in disguise?
A couple of the guys who work for the CIA wore wigs and mustaches. Their identities were classified and they’re protected so they were able to take the stand and under disguise. Khattala is there every day. He’s not in shackles – he sits quietly at his table with his lawyers. And you really see the power of federal courts on display when you’re watching this trial.
He is being tried in civilian court in a military court. Why was that decision made and what’s the implication?
Well I think it would be difficult to try Khattala in a military commission. He’s not affiliated with Al Qaeda – these people haven’t presented the case that he is. But he was prosecuted and charged by the Department of Justice with 18 counts – involved in the murders of these four Americans. And I think it was important to the Department of Justice and the FBI to hold somebody responsible and bring him back and prosecute him in civilian court. You know it’s sort of a canard this idea that civilian courts aren’t adequate to deal with terrorists but they’ve been dealing with terrorists for a very long time and Khattala is one of many foreign born terrorists who have been brought back to face trial. And in fact that was successfully prosecuted.
So if he is found guilty where will he end up?
He will probably end up at the supermax in Florence, Colorado. It’s a maximum security prison. The worst of the worst are there and he’ll probably spend the rest of his life, 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.
Are there any other people accused of having a role in the Benghazi attacks who are going to be tried?
The Department of Justice and FBI have charged more than a dozen people who were involved in the attack. On October 30, First Delta Force, an elite military unit working with the FBI once again apprehended one of the suspects near Misurata which is in Libya along the coast, and they brought him back and in fact they intend to prosecute him. It was Khattala himself who identified Mustafa al-Imam, the one who was picked up recently.
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Prosecutors in the trial of the alleged Libyan mastermind of the 2012 attack in Benghazi that killed a US ambassador argued Thursday that he was equally responsible even if he did not personally take part.
Wrapping up final arguments in the trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala over the 2012 Benghazi attack, US government lawyers said he was guilty of conspiracy and murder in the deaths of US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“‘I will kill all the Americans, each and everyone of them…’: This is what the defendant Abu Khattala said and this is exactly what he did,” prosecutor Michael DiLorenzo told a jury in the trial in Washington federal court.
“On September 11, he took action,” DiLorenzo said, highlighting that the attack in the eastern Libyan city took place on the anniversary of the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks.
Khattala, in his 40s with a long white beard, sat passively in his chair in the courtroom, where his trial opened seven weeks earlier.
DiLorenzo summed up his argument that Khattala was an Islamic extremist who hated Western culture and believed the US operated a cell of spies in Benghazi.
Prosecutors allege that he directed the attack by some 20 men armed with grenades and heavy weapons on the US consulate and a second annex building where agents of the CIA worked.
The attack set fire to the consulate, where Stevens and a second State Department official, Sean Smith, died of asphyxiation.
Later that night two former Navy Seals who were contracted to the consulate operation, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed by mortar fire on the annex.
The attack shocked the United States. Stevens was the first American ambassador killed in the field since 1979.
Republicans in Congress launched an intense investigation that accused president Barack Obama and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton of mismanagement, neglect and covering up the truth of the incident.
– Murder and terror charges –
Khattala is facing 18 separate charges including murder and material support for terrorists.
The 12-person jury is to begin weighing a verdict after final arguments in the case wind up on Thursday.
Khattala’s lawyers argue that although he is a conservative Muslim, he did not hate the West. To the contrary, they said he was a “Libyan patriot” who says he worked with Americans to bring down the Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, who was killed in 2011.
The photographs and videos that show him at the site during the attack do not prove he was part of it, his lawyers say. He was only a bystander who came to watch.
But the US government argues he commanded the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia behind the attack.
Even if he did not physically participate, DiLorenzo argued, in a conspiracy “the defendant is equally liable.”
– Test case –
Khattala’s trial is a test case for foreign suspects forcibly brought to the United States for trial.
He was captured in 2014 when US special forces carried out a raid based on intelligence provided by a Libyan man who ultimately received a $7 million reward from the US government.
On November 4 a second Libyan accused of involvement in the Benghazi attack, Mustafa al-Imam, was put on trial in the same Washington court, days after being captured and brought to the United States.
Al-Imam was called one of the men who attacked the consulate.
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A State Department security contractor says that it was asked to provide security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi after a rival company failed to do the job, just 12 days before the terror attack of Sep. 11, 2012, which claimed the lives of four Americans.
Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, a large, Virginia-based security and private military contracting firm, told Breitbart News that the State Department approached the company less than two weeks before Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were brutally murdered.
Blue Mountain Group, the small Welsh security contractor to which the State Department initially awarded the contract over Torres’s bid earlier in the year, was allegedly failing on the job.
Torres, which is owned and operated by U.S. Special Forces veteran Jerry Torres, was initially denied the contract. Before Benghazi, Torres had provided armed guards for the United States embassies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the world. Blue Mountain, which is based in Wales, was apparently largely unknown in private contracting circles that were hired to work for the United States until the fateful attack on September 11, 2012.
“If we had been awarded that contract to protect the embassy compound in Benghazi, those men would still be alive today,” Bradley Owens, the political affairs officer for Torres told Breitbart News.
Owens said that on August 12, 2012 — just six months after Blue Mountain won the State Department contract for Benghazi — State Department official Jan Visintainer asked Torres’s director: “Hey, can Torres perform in Libya?”
We were asked 12 days before the attacks if we can come in and take over security. So they knew it wasn’t safe. Wait, it gets worse. We, of course, said yes. I got an email from our director of operations. We were going to rent a compound that was half a kilometer from the compound in Benghazi.
We were going to have a six-man team on the ground that were all ex-pat. And because of the work we were doing in Libya pre-and-post the war, we had a lot of friends who were Libyan and who knew how to fight.
“Many of the local Libyans who attacked the consulate on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, were the actual guards that the State Department under Hillary Clinton hired to protect the consulate in Benghazi,” Tiegen told Fox News last year. “The guards were unvetted and were locals with basically no background at all in providing security. Most of them never had held a job in security in the past.”
In addition, Owens told Breitbart News that the Blue Mountain contractors guarding the consulate were armed with batons. “The security situation had deteriorated, so the Benghazi contract never should have been an unarmed contract.”
Owens said that he told the State Department that it would taken 30 days for the company arrive on the scene and be ready to perform. “They would have had to end the contract [with Blue Mountain] and give it to us. It would have taken us a month to get set up.”
Owens told Breitbart News that he has decided to speak out about Benghazi because of the five-year anniversary of the attack, and because he was released from his nondisclosure agreement (NDA) last year.
“We want the system fixed. We want people punished. We want justice for Benghazi.” He added, “I could have been one of those guys.
“My number one mission right now is to get the word out about what happened,” Owens declared.
Asked why he waited so long to come out with the story, he said, “We waited to come forward because we knew we would get no traction under the previous administration. Now that Trump’s in the White House, and with the new administration, we believe they will take action and make things right.”
Owens also questioned the process through which Blue Mountain had been awarded the initial contract.
In 2013, a Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch revealed that Visintainer had told Blue Mountain Group not to speak to the media after the attack.
Update: In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday evening, Torres said: “The U.S. ambassador is dead and nobody is held accountable for it.”
Asked if five years after the attack Benghazi could happen again, Torres said, “Oh absolutely. nothing’s changed.”
He said that Visintainer had also told him not to speak to the media.
Beirut (dpa) – An audio recording released in the name of the Islamic State extremist group Monday called for attacks on Turkey and on Turkish embassies and consulates worldwide.
“We call on every sincere monotheist to hit every branch of the atheist, apostate Turkish government everywhere … and every embassy and consulate that represents it in every country across the world,” a spokesman identified as Abu Hassan al-Muhajir said.
dpa could not independently verify the authenticity of the recording but it was consistent with previous statements issued by the jihadist group.
The message appeared to be the first from al-Muhajir – a pseudonym indicating a “migrant” to the organization‘s territory‘s – after the group‘s previous spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in a US airstrike in northern Syria in August.
“The identity of #ISIS‘ new spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, is unknown and will likely stay this way to avoid being killed,” Rita Katz, head of the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist media, wrote on Twitter.
In August Turkey and allied rebel forces intervened in northern Syria, driving Islamic State from the last stretches of the border between the two countries that it still controlled.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in early November called on his group‘s fighters to invade Turkey. Days later the group claimed a deadly bomb attack on a police station in the country‘s mainly Kurdish south-east.
It was the first Islamic State claim of an attack inside Turkey, although authorities have blamed it for previous attacks, mainly on Kurdish targets, that killed about 250 people.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Gunmen in Libya crashed into a convoy of vehicles taking Serbia’s ambassador to neighbouring Tunisia and then kidnapped two other embassy employees, officials said.
The embassy’s communications officer, Sladjana Stankovic, and driver Jovica Stepic, were kidnapped in the northwest coastal town of Sabratha, Serbia’s Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry is “doing all it can to get more information and secure the return of our citizens in a very complicated situation on the ground,” a statement said.
Ambassador Oliver Potezica, who escaped unharmed and was travelling in the three-vehicle convoy with his wife and two sons aged 8 and 14, later recounted the attack.
“It happened like in a movie,” Potezica told Tanjug news agency from Tunisia. “The attack happened when one of the embassy cars was hit from behind. When the driver came out to check what happened, he was dragged into one of the attackers’ cars.”
One of the Libyan security officers travelling with the convoy was wounded when hit by a spray of gunfire during the attack and taken to a hospital, the ambassador said.
The kidnapping “looked more like a criminal than a political act,” Potezica said.
In Libya, a member of Sabratha’s council said that the convoy had stopped at a motel on their way to Tunisia and then resumed their journey.
“They were ambushed by an armed group, and the vehicle carrying the ambassador and his wife managed to escape the ambush, but the group managed to stop the vehicle behind it, which had two embassy staff,” council member Abdulghassim Krair said.
Military forces safely escorted the rest of the convoy to the Tunisian border, Krair said.
“We assured them that we will do our best to find the perpetrators and rescue the employees,” he said.
Krair added that the embassy hadn’t notified local authorities in advance about the trip, saying “it’s not safe to travel through the area unguarded.”
The motel was on the main road leading to Tunisia and close to the Mediterranean Sea in an area beset by smugglers and rouge militias. A number of kidnappings have
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