Little sign of Libyan probe into consulate attack
It has faced personnel problems. Initially it was led by a judge in Benghazi, but he stepped down after only two weeks, according to the head of the Benghazi Cassation court, Fatma al-Baraghathi, who appointed him.
He was replaced by a judge in Tripoli, but al-Baraghathi said it was not clear if he had started work. The commission also includes the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Division and Libyan intelligence.
Contacted by the AP, the judge who stepped down refused to give details. ‘‘I no longer have anything to do with this case and I have nothing to say about it,’’ said Salem Abdel-Atti.
Deputy Interior Minister Omar al-Khadrawi insisted the investigation was ‘‘going well’’ but could not say when it would be completed.
Speaking two weeks ago, ministry spokesman Ezz Eddin al-Fazani said the results would be released ‘‘soon.’’
He and other Interior Ministry officials say they don’t even know how many people have been detained. Early on, top officials claimed they made anywhere from 6 to 40 arrests, but no one can say if anyone is still held. In any case, all of those detained were post-attack looters, not gunmen who stormed the compound, former prime minister Mustafa Abu-Shagour told The Associated Press.
The confusion reflects the broader disarray of Libya’s state security. To keep a degree of peace, authorities rely on the numerous militias made up of tens of thousands of young Libyans who took up arms against Gadhafi. It is often difficult to draw clear lines between those providing security and those causing instability. Many militias are under the Interior Ministry’s Supreme Security Committee, giving them a veneer of state authority to handle security tasks police would normally perform, but they remain virtually independent, loyal to their own commanders and agendas.
Security officials are fearful of confronting the militias, which are far better armed than security forces. Ansar al-Shariah and its mother group, the Rafallah Sahati brigade, are among the strongest militias in Benghazi.
Fawzi Wanis, head of the Supreme Security Committee, is convinced militiamen within the committee fed information to the consulate attackers. But ‘‘I don’t have the capability to carry out an internal investigation.’’
Details of the attack remain muddled. The Obama administration says it was a planned terror attack by militants, after initial confusion over whether there was also a protest against an anti-Islam film. Libyan security guards at the consulate and most witnesses say there were no peaceful protests outside the mission, but there were onlookers attending a wedding at a hall named Venice outside the mission’s main gate.
Libyan security officials continue to give contradictory statements. Al-Barghathi, the head of the command center, told The Associated Press that there were protesters and he withdrew troops from in front of the consulate because he did not want to cause casualties among civilians. But in the report he submitted to the National Council — shown to AP — he makes no mention of protests.
Even the time the attack began is unclear. A U.S. timeline says it started at 9:40 p.m., but most witnesses say the first firing began an hour earlier. Another question is why Stevens did not have stronger security and why Libyan security reinforcements did not arrive until 11 p.m., even though military and security bases are nearby.
The void of information has only fueled conspiracy theories among Benghazi’s residents. Al-Barghathi, for example, is convinced the United States wanted Stevens to be killed.
‘‘They brought him here to get rid of him. We have information that he was about to convert to Islam,’’ said al-Barghathi. ‘‘Why else would he not have enough security?’’
Associated Press reporter Peter James Spielmann contributed from the United Nations.