January 9, 2014

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was unable to tell reporters how the Obama administration determines which groups are official al Qaeda affiliates at a briefing on Wednesday.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that U.S. officials suspect former Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Sufian bin Qumu, leader of the group Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, was involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi. Psaki confirmed that Ansar al-Sharia’s two branches in Libya—which will be designated by the State Department as foreign terrorist organizations in the coming days—were involved in past terrorist attacks and the one in Benghazi.

However, Psaki said there is no indication that the branches of Ansar al-Sharia were “official affiliates of core al Qaeda” or that the attacks were preplanned. The Benghazi assault resulted in the deaths of four Americans. The Post report, citing U.S. military files disclosed by WikiLeaks, said Qumu trained in 1993 at one of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist camps in Afghanistan, worked for a bin Laden company in Sudan, and then fought with the Taliban against the U.S. in Afghanistan. Qumu was later captured and held at Guantanamo Bay until 2007, when he was turned over to the Libyan government and subsequently released in 2008.

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