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article imageOp-Ed: Sole suspect held in Benghazi attack released in Tunisia

By Ken Hanly     Jan 8, 2013 in World
Benghazi - Ali Harzi was detained in October at an airport in Turkey and deported to his home country Tunisia where he was reportedly questioned by FBI agents about the Benghazi attack and an attack on the US embassy in Tunis.
Harzi's lawyer said he was released for lack of evidence against him. The release of Harzi shows how little appears to have been accomplished in the investigation into who is responsible for the Benghazi attack last September 11 that killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other Americans.
In spite of the fact that Benghazi residents say there is an abundance of leads, no one has been charged or is even held apparently. Surveillance cameras filmed the attack. Large crowds also observed the attack. A number of US and Libyan guards who survived the attack also saw the attackers. Several witnesses have identified at least one Islamist militant Ahmed Aub Khattal, to both journalists and law enforcement personnel.
Khattala did not even go into hiding. A few days after President Obama vowed to bring those responsible for the attack to justice, Khattala sat several hours in plain view in a crowded luxury hotel sipping his strawberry frappe. He scoffed at the vows of Obama and the Libyan government to bring those responsible for the attack to justice. Khattala said that no authority had even questioned him about the attack. He said he had no plans to go into hiding.
In fact some of the militias in Libya provide their own security in areas they control. Some of them,such as the Ansar al-Shariah, with whom Khattal is linked have adopted a radical Islamist ideology quite hostile to the west and often linked by commentators to Al Qaeda. The central government seems not to have the power to act against these militias and often buys them off by paying them to provide security. Other militias do not have the same appetite for the war on terror as the US and are tolerant of these militias as long as they do not threaten their own territory.
Khattala declared that he was not a member of Al Qaeda he supports their zeal for a puritanical interpretation of Islamic law. He blamed US foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks:“Why is the United States always trying to impose its ideology on everyone else?Why is it always trying to use force to implement its agendas?”
Libya's interim government's silence on their investigation has been deafening. They have not released the names of any other suspects or of anyone they might have held earlier for questioning about the attack. Militias provide the main law enforcement in Benghazi, and they have taken no action against Khattala or Ansar al-Shariah often linked to the attack. They say that there is insufficient evidence to take action.
The F.B.I. is no less tight-lipped about what is going on, although they have identified several suspects believed to be behind the attacks. The Libyan government is reluctant to move against any extremist militias. American investigators are operating from Tripoli 500 miles to the west and only returned to Benghazi a few times because of the security situation in Benghazi.
After the September 11 attack there was a reaction against Ansar al-Shariah and militias in general. Protesters stormed several militia headquarters including that of Ansar al-Shariah. At least ten people were killed when a pro-government militia was attacked. These demonstrations encouraged the government to move against the militias.
The Libyan president declared that all unauthorized militias had 48 hours to disband. Note that these are unauthorized militias. Some militias provide security for the state! A number of militias decided to accept the authority of the government. The government formed a "National Mobile Force" to evict illegal militias. Ansar al-Shariah did abandon several bases in Benghazi. Nevertheless, many militias remain and the government seems reluctant to move against them.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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