Testimony Suggests Second Group in Benghazi Attacks, Though Evidence Seems Thin

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 10 2014 1:18 PM

Testimony Suggests Second Group in Benghazi Attacks, Though Evidence Seems Thin

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Inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi in September 2012.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

At least one military official believes that the militant group that attacked a CIA complex in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012 was not the same entity that attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi hours earlier.

Speaking in a closed-door session earlier this year along with eight other military officials, retired Gen. Carter Ham told Congress that the mortar attack on the intelligence facility that led to the deaths of CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty demonstrated what the Associated Press described as “clear military training.”

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The testimony was released on Wednesday by the House Armed Services Committee. From the AP:

"Given the precision of the attack, it was a well-trained mortar crew, and in my estimation they probably had a well-trained observer," said Ham, who headed the U.S. command in Africa. The second attack showed "a degree of sophistication and military training that is relatively unusual and certainly, I think, indicates that this was not a pickup team. This was not a couple of guys who just found a mortar someplace."

The AP writes that the well-coordinated nature of the attack on the CIA facility suggests "different perpetrators from those who penetrated the U.S. diplomatic mission the previous night." However, the AP story also quotes a different official describing the first attack—the attack on the diplomatic mission—as "thought-out" and "methodical."

Meanwhile, as the AP notes, the Justice Department claims a suspect named Ahmed Abu Khattala— who was arrested last month—was involved in both attacks.

The AP does not describe further evidence for the involvement of two separate groups besides Ham's assertion.

The attack on the diplmatic compound killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith.

Update, July 10, 2014: This piece has been revised for clarity.

Irene Chidinma Nwoye is a writer and former Slate intern in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.

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