US Special Operations forces and FBI agents arrive in Benghazi, Libya
US FBI agents, Special Operations forces arrive in Benghazi
Sat Oct 6, 2012 11:12AM GMT
Agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), escorted by dozens of Special Operations forces, have arrived in Benghazi to conduct a probe into the killing of four Americans at the US consulate in the Libyan city.
The American agents flew from the Libyan capital of Tripoli in a C-130 military transport aircraft and were then driven to the consulate in Benghazi in armored cars, the New York Times reported Friday.
US officials have not disclosed how many FBI agents are involved in the investigation and how long they would remain in the country.
The daily quotes the US Defense Department’s Press Secretary George Little as merely stating to reporters that the FBI agents and their military protectors were in Benghazi “for a number of hours” before returning back to Tripoli.
The US compound in Benghazi was attacked on September 11 by angry protesters who had staged anti-American rallies at the site in reaction to the release of a US-produced anti-Islam film that insulted Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). During the melee, American Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
According to the report, security concerns had kept the American intelligence agents and investigators from traveling the 400 miles from the American embassy in Tripoli to gather evidence at the US consulate in Benghazi. Administration officials on Thursday attributed the delay to the Libyan government, which they said was slow in granting approval for the US operation.
A Washington Post reporter at the site discovered loosely secured sensitive documents about American operations in Libya, some of which were turned over to the State Department, the daily reported on Wednesday. Additionally, a CNN reporter discovered in September Stevens’ diary among the wreckage of the consulate.
According to the report, it is not clear whether the FBI agents intend to return to the Benghazi compound, though the Pentagon spokesman implied that they might. He offered few details about the military escort operation, adding, “We may need to replicate it in the future, and I wouldn’t want to tip off the wrong people.”
The FBI team in Tripoli now, according to the report, include agents from its national security division and New York field office in Libya. They have been operating mostly out of the American Embassy in the country, which is now guarded by a force of 50 elite Marines trained to protect American diplomatic posts in crisis.
The report also claims that the FBI agents are operating without any help on the ground from the CIA, “which had about a dozen intelligence operatives and contractors in Benghazi until the attacks, conducting surveillance and collecting information.”
According to the report, US President Barack Obama has vowed to bring the suspected killers of Stevens to “justice,” as the United States is currently engaged in laying the groundwork for possible operations to kill or capture alleged militants implicated in the attack.
The military options, it adds, may include drone strikes, Special Operations raids and joint missions with the Libyan forces. However, the Libyan government reportedly opposes any unilateral American military operation in Libya, and US authorities claim no decisions have been made about attacking any potential targets in the North African country.