The department announced that it was labeling Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah as terror organizations, in part over their role in the Benghazi attack. It applied the same label to Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, over a separate attack on Americans in Tunis.Interestingly Abu Sufian bin Qumu was one of the terrorists mentioned in the recent controversial NY Times Benghazi report as not being involved in the Benghazi attack. Bin Qumu was incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay until 2007 when he was turned over to the Libyan government. Libya released him the next year.
The State Department also labeled as terrorists Sufian bin Qumu, head of the Darnah branch and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, and Ahmed Abu Khattalah, head of the Benghazi branch.
Fox News previously reported that the two were suspected of playing a role in the attack. And despite State Department claims that Al Qaeda leadership was not involved and a recent news report echoing that assessment, Fox News has learned that bin Qumu has Al Qaeda ties.
According to his Guantanamo file, he has historic ties to the Al Qaeda network, including training at one point at "Usama bin Laden's Torkham camp."
The State Department, in its announcement Friday, specifically discussed allegations against the Ansar al-Sharia branches.
"Ansar al-Shari'a in Benghazi and Ansar al-Shari'a in Darnah have been involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya, and the September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya," the department said. "Members of both organizations continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests in Libya."
Earlier this week the Washington Post was told by contacts in the government:
Militiamen under the command of Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, participated in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, U.S. officials said.This contradicts the already discredited NY Times report that said:
Witnesses have told American officials that Qumu’s men were in Benghazi before the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, according to the officials. It’s unclear whether they were there as part of a planned attack or out of happenstance. The drive from Darnah to Benghazi takes several hours.
The State Department is expected to tie Qumu’s group to the Benghazi attack when it designates three branches of Ansar al-Sharia, in Darnah, Benghazi and Tunisia, as foreign terrorist organizations in the coming days.
But neither Mr. Qumu nor anyone else in Derna appears to have played a significant role in the attack on the American Mission, officials briefed on the investigation and the intelligence said.