U.S. officials suspect that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee played a role in the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, and are planning to designate the group he leads as a foreign terrorist organization, according to officials familiar with the plans.
Militiamen under the command of Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, participated in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, U.S. officials said
Witnesses have told American officials that Qumu’s men were in Benghazi before the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, according to the officials. It’s unclear if they were there as part of a planned attack or out of happenstance. The drive from Darnah to Benghazi takes several hours.
The State Department is expected to tie Qumu’s group to the Benghazi attack when it designates three branches of Ansar al-Sharia, in Darnah, Benghazi and Tunisia, as foreign terrorist organizations in the coming days.
Qumu and two other men, militia leaders Ahmed Abu Khattala and Seif Allah bin Hassine, will be identified as “specially designated global terrorists,” a determination that allows U.S. officials to freeze their financial assets and bar American citizens and companies from doing business with them.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the developments.