CNN:What jihadists want you to believe about Libya
updated 7:04 PM EDT, Wed September 12, 2012
A demonstrator in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, September 12, holds a message during a rally to condemn the killers of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three others during the attack on the U.S. Consulate. Photos: Protesters storm U.S. Embassy buildings
- Demonstrators on Wednesday gathered in Libya to condemn the killers and voice support for the victims in the attack on the U.S. Consulate and a safe house that was stormed by Islamist gunmen blaming America for a film they said insulted the prophet Mohammed. U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement about the death of Stevens with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Rose Garden at the White House on Wednesday in Washington. A burnt vehicle is seen at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, September 12, one day after armed men stormed the compound and launched a rocket-propelled grenade. The resulting fire left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and and three other Americans dead. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. People inspect the damage at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, the day after four people were killed. A small American flag is seen in the rubble at the U.S. Consulate on Wednesday. A man stands in part of the burned-out compound Wednesday. The attack came after intense demonstrations apparently sparked by a little-known film by an Israeli-American amateur filmmaker that angered Muslims as it was deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. Smoke and fire damage is evident in this consulate building. Half-burnt debris and ash cover the floor of one of the consulate buildings. The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames Tuesday, September 11. A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames Tuesday night. A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the compound Tuesday. Flames erupt outside of a building in the U.S. consulate compound on Tuesday. A vehicle burns during the attack Tuesday on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Onlookers record the damage from the attack on Tuesday. Onlookers walk past a burning truck and building in the compound on Tuesday. A vehicle sits smoldering in flames on Tuesday. U.S. consulate in Libya was attacked; some thought it was because of a video
- Noman Benotman: The attack was most likely a pre-planned terrorist operation
- He says attack does not represent the views of most Libyans, who are grateful to the U.S.
- Benotman: The international community must not give up on Libya's reconstruction
Editor's note: Noman Benotman is president of Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism group in London. He is a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist organization that fought against Muammar Qaddafi's regime in the 1990s. After resigning from L.I.F.G. in 2002, he became a prominent critic of jihadist and Islamist violence.
(CNN) -- The Obama administration may very well be right that the attack in Benghazi which claimed the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials was part of a pre-planned terrorist operation. It would have happened sooner or later, regardless of any protests against an obscure anti-Islam film made in America.
The attack apparently occurred because in recent days, the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri posted a video online calling on Libyans to avenge the killing of al-Qaeda's second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi.
According to our own sources at Quilliam Foundation, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault. It is rare, for example, that an RPG7 -- an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher -- would be present at a civilian protest. The attack against the consulate had two waves. The first attack led to U.S. officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against U.S. officials after they were kept at a secure location.
Jihadists will want the world to believe that the attack is just a part of the protests against an amateur film produced in the U.S., which includes crude insults regarding the Prophet Mohammed. They will want the world to think that their actions represent a popular Libyan and wider Muslim reaction; thus, reversing the perception of jihadists being outcasts from their own societies. Since there were similar protests in Egypt against the film, it is possible that more protests may erupt in Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The jihadists may also feel that by killing U.S. citizens, they will win the support of local populations. They are wrong.
This attack was committed by a small group of extremists who do not represent the Libyan population. They seek to destroy any reconstruction attempts in my mother country. As often is the case, extremists try to take advantage of the absence of security in a country that has just gotten out of a civil war. They try so hard to destabilize the peace that the majority of the population have fought so hard to establish.
Ambassador Stevens himself was well known for advocating peace and stability in Libya. The recent election results in the country are testament to his conviction that Libya can achieve progress. That Libyans did not vote the radicals into office in the elections proves that Libya is not a nation of extremists. The extremists' response to their electoral defeat comes in a language they relish: Violence.
The attack on the U.S. consulate is a truly tragic event. Libya has lost one of the few foreign figures that really sought to invest time and energy into our country and believed in its future. Ambassador Stevens was one of a select number of international public figures based in Libya, who had refused to give up on Libya and its deteriorating security situation in recent months. He was an extremely successful envoy, who traveled the country to meet with all groups of Libyan society, and did not confine himself to international circles in the capital. No village or town was too far, and he was always keen to understand local customs. His death is a loss not just for Americans, but for many Libyans.
I hope that the Libyan government will take this time to reflect on the security vacuum in the country, in particular around Benghazi, and rebuild the defense and security sectors in an accountable, professional and responsible manner. I also hope that the Libyan authorities will look to reverse their policy of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR).
We have welcomed the international community into our country, and I know that we want to continue our collaboration with the NATO community and member states, including, and especially, with the United States. These countries helped free us from the tyrannical rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who was in power for 42 years. Many Libyans are forever grateful to America for its support in freeing our country from dictatorship.
This attack does not reflect the attitude of the Libyan population. For the international community, withdrawal of support from Libya will only play directly into the hands of jihadists, and that is the opposite of what we should do.