September 19, 2012
The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in
Benghazi was in fact "a terrorist attack" and the U.S. government has
indications that members of al Qaeda were directly involved, a top Obama
administration official said Wednesday morning.
"I would say yes, they were
killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy," Matt Olsen, the director of the
National Counterterrorism Center, said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate
Homeland Security Committee, in response to questioning from Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) about the attack
that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens
and three other Americans.
As for who was
responsible, Olsen said it appears there were attackers from a number of
different militant groups that operate in and around Benghazi, and said there
are already signs of al Qaeda involvement.
"We are looking at
indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to
al Qaeda or al Qaeda's affiliates; in particular, al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb," he said.
The U.S. government just isn't sure yet whether the
terrorist attack was pre-planned or whether it was an example of terrorists taking
advantage of protests against an anti-Islam film, Olsen said.
"It appears that individuals
who were certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events
unfolded that evening and into the morning hours of September 12th. We do know that
a number of militants in the area, as I mentioned, are well-armed and maintain
those arms. What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that
there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack," he