From “Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation,” David D. Kirkpatrick, NYT:
“To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants mounted the attack without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the American-made video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without ever mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist attacks of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.
“But so far the intelligence assessments appear to square largely with the local accounts. Whether the attackers are labeled ‘Al Qaeda cells’ or ‘aligned with Al Qaeda,’ as Republicans have suggested, depends on whether that label can be used as a generic term for a broad spectrum of Islamist militants, encompassing groups like Ansar al-Shariah whose goals were primarily local, as well as those who aspire to join a broader jihad against the West.
“In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian consulate over a different film, according to the Congressional testimony of the American security chief at the time, Eric A. Nordstrom.
“At a news conference the day after the ambassador and three other Americans were killed, a spokesman for Ansar al-Shariah praised the attack as the proper response to such an insult to Islam. … Other Benzaghi militia leaders who know the group say its leaders and ideology are all homegrown. Their group provides social services and guards a hospital. And they openly proselytize for their brand of puritanical Islam and political vision.
“They profess no interest in global fights against the West or distant battles aimed at removing American troops from the Arabian Peninsula.” Emphasis added.