Several Egyptians who helped seize an Algerian oil field last week also took part in the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, according to a senior Algerian official as reported by Adam Nossiter of The New York Times.
If true, the connection underscores the dangerous new reality in which extremists collaborate across vast distances to attack Western interests.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.”
Nossiter notes that American officials have previously said that some members of Ansar al-Shariah — the group that carried out the Benghazi attack — has connections to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which the Pentagon has linked to the Algeria attack.
The Algeria attackers organised in northern Mali, bought weapons from the Libyan capital of Tripoli and recruited militants from at least six countries. That execution would not have been possible a couple of years ago.
Dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia were overthrown during the Arab Spring, and the weapons that went missing in Libya “are perhaps the greatest proliferation of weapons of war from any modern conflict,” according to Emergency Director at Human Rights Watch Peter Bouckaert.
Clinton just called it a “Pandora’s box of weapons” and said there is “no doubt” that jihadists in Africa have some of these weapons.
Nomadic Tuaregs rebels who fought for former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi returned to northern Mali and, with the backing of jihadists in the region, declared the Texas-sized area an independent country in April 2012.
After the Tuaregs were overthrown by the jihadists — who then enacted a harsh for of sharia law — the Malian government requested international intervention to help retake the area.
Photo: Le Monde
The claim about the Benghazi-Algeria link came from one of the three militants captured by Algerian security forces. The Algerian official said that the Egyptians were among the 38 hostages and 29 kidnappers who died in the four-day crisis.
Four Americans died in the Sept. 11 Benghazi attacks and three Americans died in the last week’s Algeria hostage crisis.
“This is the result of the Arab Spring,” the Algerian official told the Times, adding that Algeria could expect more attacks. “I hope the Americans are conscious of this.”
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