According to AP, U.S officials say they have identified five men who are believed to be responsible for the deadly attack on the U.S consulate Benghazi, Libya, last year. The attack killed four Americans including U.S Ambassador Christoper Stevens, making it the most serious attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound since al-Qaeda bombed the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 14 years ago.
Although initial reports from the White House stated that the attacks stemmed from violent protests that stemmed from an anti-Muslim YouTube video, evidence indicates that the attack in Benghazi was terrorist-driven. Now there is growing pressure on the White House to show progress in the effort to catch those who killed the American diplomats.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Suspects Remain at Large Because They Will be Tried in Civilian Court
Officials say the men remain at large while the FBI gathers more evidence. The names have not been released. One of the reasons the suspects have not been captured is because reports indicate there is not enough proof to try them in a U.S civilian court. The decision not to seize the men militarily underscores the the Obama Administration’s aim to move away from hunting terrorists as enemy combatants and toward trying them as criminals in a civilian justice system.
2. Benghazi is at the Center of a Political Scandal
Benghazi has become a highly politicized mystery as Republicans have been hounding Obama’s administration over unanswered questions on the attacks. Gregory Hicks – former top U.S diplomat in Libya and the man who testified about the attack in front of the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee – said he was “stunned” and “embarrassed” when he heard US UN ambassador Susan Rice had blamed a YouTube video for the attack. Hicks, who was in Libya at the time of the attack, stated it was very clear the party responsible was a terrorist group. The controversy over the Obama administration’s initial story-line on the Benghazi attack is believed to “underscore State Department concerns about the leadership’s failure to act on documented warnings and security incidents,” says FoxNews.
3. The Terrorist Group Blamed for the Attacks Still Operating
According to FoxNews, the group blamed for the attacks is still operating. Although they went underground following the September 11 attacks, they have been active since January.
The US intelligence community has a target list of not only individuals but also military strongholds where intelligence indicates Al-Qaeda related operatives conduct planning and training.
4. FBI Sought Help and Released Photos of 3 Suspects Weeks Ago
On May 2, the FBI released surveillance photos of three men suspected of being involved in the September 11 Benghazi attacks. The FBI’s website asked anyone with information to give a confidential submission. It is unknown if these any of three men are included in the five suspects recently identified by the FBI. Although the FBI has not officially called them “‘suspects”, it certainly wants to find them.
5. Between 125 and 150 Gunmen Were Involved in the Attack
Between 125 and 150 gunmen, “some wearing the Afghan-style tunics favored by Islamic militants,” are reported to have participated in the assault. Weapons used during the attack included grenades, AK-47, rifles, mortars and even heavy machine guns.