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Benghazi: both video and al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists behind attack

According to an in-depth analysis of social media, the anti-Islam video merely served as a catalyst for al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists who long sought to target US interests in Libya.

David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times piece on the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack has given new life to the US debate over the attack, provoking irate responses from conservative pundits and even a would-be refutation from Fox News. The contentious elements in Kirkpatrick’s reconstruction of the Benghazi events boil down to two main points: (1) that the infamous "anti-Islam video," which the Barack Obama administration initially suggested had provoked the attack, did indeed play a role in sparking the violence; and (2) that al-Qaeda had no hand in planning the attack or carrying it out. The second point has since received tacit endorsement from the US State Department, which, while designating two groups suspected of involvement in the attacks as terrorist organizations, has insisted that they are not “official” al-Qaeda affiliates.

Kirkpatrick’s evidence in support of his first point consists exclusively of hearsay reports from unidentified persons who were allegedly on the scene on the night of the attack. Kirkpatrick does say that by Sept. 9 “a popular eastern Libyan Facebook page had denounced the film.” But, regrettably, he does not identify the page in question. The claim thus remains unverifiable.

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