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Entries in Libya (22)

Wednesday
Nov142012

Petraeus Will Testify Behind Closed Doors on Benghazi

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former CIA Director David Petraeus has agreed to testify at a closed-door session of Congress to answer questions about September's terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.  Still, he will likely also be asked about new revelations that his alleged mistress, Paula Broadwell, is suspected of storing classified military material at her home.

Petraeus had been reluctant to testify following his resignation as CIA chief, but pressure had been growing in Congress for him to appear.

The former general has agreed, sources told ABC News, to testify on Thursday.

A source familiar with the case also told ABC News that Broadwell admitted to the FBI that she took documents from secure government buildings.  The government demanded that they all be given back, and when federal agents descended on her North Carolina home Monday night, it was a pre-arranged meeting.

Prosecutors are now determining whether to charge Broadwell with a crime.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep272012

Some Administration Officials Had Early Concerns Benghazi Attack Was Act of Terrorism

US Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcet(WASHINGTON) -- Obama administration officials told ABC News they had early concerns the attack in Benghazi, Libya was the work of terrorists. Events were too uncertain, and suspicions had been aroused, officials said.

Panetta Thursday said that the attack that killed four Americans on the anniversary of 9/11 was not only carried out by terrorists -- it was pre-meditated.

“As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place,” Panetta told reporters, “it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack.”

The White House first suggested the attack was spontaneous -- the result of an anti-Muslim video that incited mobs throughout the region.

“Let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Sept. 14.

When ABC News pressed Carney on whether that included the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American men were killed, Carney said, “we certainly don’t know. We don’t know otherwise. We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.”

On ABC's This Week on Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to -- or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons … And it then evolved from there.”

White House officials acknowledge that assessments have changed over time as intelligence has been confirmed, but they insist that no information was given in bad faith and there was no attempt to downplay the attack.

But sources told ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all. The attackers knew where to get Ambassador Stevens after he’d fled to a so-called safe house half a mile away. That building was hit with insurgent mortars -- suggesting the terrorists knew what they were doing.

As of Thursday afternoon, officials from the Obama administration were not even 100 percent certain that the protest of the anti-Muslim film in Benghazi occurred outside the U.S. diplomatic post.

In a closed-door briefing with top officials, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the mortar attack on the safe house as suggesting that the terrorist attack was one of opportunity, not pre-meditation, since the mortars were not used to attack the consulate earlier in the day.

President Obama has repeatedly said the investigation is on to find the killers and bring them to justice. But as first reported by CNN, ABC news has learned that the FBI -- which has been dispatched to Libya to take the lead in the investigation -- has not even reached Benghazi yet.

This is largely due to safety concerns. Indeed, as of Thursday, senior State Department officials said that the diplomatic presence in Libya -- which was already down to emergency-level staffing -- would be further reduced.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Secretary Clinton Delivers Powerful Religion Speech After Middle East Embassy Attacks

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary Clinton delivered a powerful and personal speech about religion at an Eid ul-Fitr reception, marking the end of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. The speech, at times, was a direct response to the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East, and the deaths of four diplomats at the hands of militants in Libya.

In her remarks, Clinton repeated much of what she’s said in the last two days, namely that the Benghazi attack was carried out by a “small and savage group,” and that the United States completely rejects what she called the “inflammable and despicable” anti-Muslim film circulating the Internet. However, Clinton pointed out all religions have faced insults and denigration, but that’s no justification for violence.  The response to such insults is what separates people of true faith from those who would use religion as an excuse to commit violent acts, she said.

“When Christians are subject to insults to their faith, and that certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence. When Hindus or Buddhists are subjected to insults to their faiths, and that also certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence,” said Clinton. “The same goes for all faiths, including Islam.”

She spoke movingly about her own personal beliefs as a way of re-enforcing her point.

“I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults.  They have withstood offense for centuries,” said Clinton. "Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is absolutely the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable.”

She asked the crowd to work towards building a world where if one person commits a violent religious act, millions of people will stand up and condemn it.

“We can pledge that whenever one person speaks out in ignorance and bigotry, ten voices will answer,” Clinton said forcefully. “They will answer resoundingly against the offense and the insult; answering ignorance with enlightenment; answering hatred with understanding; answering darkness with light.”

The secretary urged the audience not to be discouraged by the hatred and violence that exists, but instead resolve to do something tangible to promote religious tolerance in their own communities.

“In times like these, it can be easy to despair that some differences are irreconcilable, some mountains too steep to climb; we will therefore never reach the level of understanding and peacefulness that we seek, and which I believe the great religions of the world call us to pursue,” she reflected. “But that’s not what I believe, and I don’t think it’s what you believe… Part of what makes our country so special is we keep trying. We keep working. We keep investing in our future,” she said.

This year’s annual Eid event honored three young Muslim-Americans who are part of the State Department’s Generation Change program. The initiative, launched by Clinton two years ago, supports young Muslims to develop positive organizations and movements around the world.

Clinton acknowledged that given the deaths of the diplomats killed in Libya this week, the event had a more somber tone than in years past. But she also highlighted the outpouring of support the United States has received from the Muslim world.  She thanked the Libyan ambassador, Ali Suleiman Aujali, who gave a heartfelt tribute to U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, whom he called his dear friend, killed in Benghazi on Tuesday.

“I must tell you, Madam Secretary, and tell the American people, that Chris is a hero,” said Aujali. “He loves Benghazi, he loves the people, he talks to them, he eats with them, and he [was] committed -- and unfortunately lost his life because of this commitment.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Obama to Attend Ceremony for Americans Killed in Libya

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel to Andrews Air Force Base this afternoon to attend the transfer of the remains ceremony of the four Americans killed in Libya earlier this week.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith and security personnel Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the assault.

The president has strongly condemned the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and vowed to “bring to justice the killers.”

“There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence, none,” Obama said in response to the attack on Wednesday.

U.S. officials are investigating whether the violence was a pre-planned attack intended to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary or linked to the broader protests in the region in response to an online anti-Islam film.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will also attend today’s transfer ceremony.

The solemn transfer of remains is a precise ceremony on the tarmac where transfer cases bearing the remains of the American casualties are carried off the aircraft and set down with honors on U.S. soil.

The families of Ambassador Stevens and the three U.S. government casualties have gathered, and State Department colleagues of the victims are being brought to the air base as well.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

Obama: Terror Will 'Not Dim the Light' of US Values

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(GOLDEN, Colo.) -- As his campaign rival accuses him of “apologizing” for America, President Obama today sought to project an unabashed commitment to the nation’s values, telling supporters in Colorado that he is resolved to defend them in the face of terrorism and violence.

“I want people around the world to hear me, to all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world,” Obama said.  “No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.”

The president said his administration is determined to bring to justice the killers of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and would continue to speak out for democracy and human rights.

“That's what binds us together. That's what our flag means,” Obama said. “We also believe that these are not just American rights. We believe these are universal aspirations.”

He added that the county’s primary task is “to defend and protect and advance our people, but also to defend and protect and advance those values at home and around the world.

“That's what our troops do. That's what our diplomats do. That's what our intelligence officers do. That's what our citizens do. That's what we believe. Those are the values that we hold to,” he said.

In keeping with a slightly more subdued tone that he set Wednesday night at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, President Obama did not mention rival Mitt Romney once by name.

Meanwhile back in Washington, a portrait of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, draped with a black ribbon, and a condolence book was displayed today outside of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room. Stevens worked briefly on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a Pearson Fellow State Department detailee from 2006-2007.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., today invited Senators and staff to sign the book or write a brief note to Stevens’ family. The portrait and book will be displayed until next Thursday. The condolence book will be given to the Stevens family.  

“We hope you will join us in honoring this extraordinary American diplomat,” Chairman Kerry and Ranking Minority Member Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said in an email to members today.

On Wednesday night the Senate passed a resolution by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Chairman and Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, commending the four Americans who died in Libya.

The resolution also condemned the “despicable” and violent attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi and calls for “the perpetrators of such attacks to be brought to justice.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

Who Is Sam Bacile? Anti-Islam Filmmaker's Bio Doesn't Add Up

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The filmmaker who produced an incendiary, anti-Muslim movie that stirred extremists on Tuesday to storm the U.S. embassy in Egypt -- and may be linked to the fatal attack on the U.S. ambassador in Libya -- may have gone into hiding, as doubts rose as to his true identity.

Following Tuesday's riots, a California man calling himself Sam Bacile took credit for making the film Innocence of the Muslims and identified himself as an Israeli Jew in two news interviews.

But a search of public records and inconsistencies in Bacile's own accounts, as well as information from a radical Christian who helped produced the movie all suggest that "Sam Bacile" is a pseudonym and is not Israeli but an Arab Christian.

"I've met him twice.  He is not a citizen of Israel.  He is in hiding," Steve Klein, a member of a far-right anti-Islamic Christian group who says he helped with the film's production, told ABC News.

Klein said Bacile was not Israeli or Jewish, and suggested he was an Arab Christian who was a U.S. citizen.

Three U.S. Christian groups, including two identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Council, and a third that advocates for Egyptian Christians, or Copts, have been linked to the production or eventual distribution of the movie.

The controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who in 2010 sparked riots in Afghanistan after burning copies of the Koran, told ABC News that he had been contacted to help distribute the film.

Klein, a member of the Church of Kaweah, listed as an anti-Muslim hate group, said Bacile and the film's other backers were "refugees from the Middle East."

"The folks that I'm working with have come from a culture where they've been tracked down, driven from their homes.  Close family members have been kidnapped, raped and murdered," said Klein of the filmmaker.

Christians in much of the Middle East are persecuted and their plight has been made a cause for many American fundamentalist Christians.

Clips of the low-budget movie, which portrays the prophet Mohammed as a fraud, pedophile and homosexual, appeared on the YouTube page of a person identified as "Sam Bacile," who also left a later YouTube comment in colloquial Egyptian Arabic.

Searches of federal and state public records including civil and criminal court documents and real estate filings revealed no mention of anyone with Bacile's name. 

There is no record of a Sam Bacile, or a similarly named person, having received a real estate license in California.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

Muslim Leaders in DC Condemn Libya Attacks and Anti-Muslim Film

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Council on American-Islami Relations (CAIR) and Muslim leaders in Washington Wednesday condemned the violence in Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
 
“We are shocked and outraged by the killing of the US Ambassador in Benghazi.” Said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “It is a crime against humanity.”
 
Awad addressed the possibility that the attack could have been spurned by the anti-Muslim movie demeaning the Prophet Muhammad circulating on the Internet.  “It is a trashy film … it doesn’t even deserve our attention.” Awad said. “The prophet never returned an insult with an insult.”
 
“We should not play into the hands of the extremists here in this country or there.” Awad said. “We should rise above.”
 
Also speaking at the event was a friend of Ambassador Stevens, Esam Omeish, director of the Libyan Emergency Task Force. Omeish discussed recently meeting with Amb. Stevens at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and the pride Stevens had showing him the new visa section so that the embassy could help Libyans find more opportunities in the United States.
 
“This is a sad day for Libyan-American friendship, but these colossal events will not detract us nor deter us from pursuing a brighter future of freedom,” Omeish said.
 
Omeish said Stevens was a “man of honor, dedication and commitment to the progress of Libya and freedom of the Libyan people. … He was there. … I will surely miss him.”
 
CAIR communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said that the Muslim community was not worried about reprisal attacks or an increase in hate crimes, but they were mindful of that possibility.
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep122012

Biden on Libya Attack: 'Bring To Justice Their Killers'

ABC News(DAYTON, Ohio) – Vice President Joe Biden started his speech at Wright State University on a somber note, addressing the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya, and promising to bring the killers of the four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, to justice.

“Let me be clear, we are resolved to bring to justice their killers,” Biden said at Wright State University as a woman shouted “Amen!” “And we will work, we will work with the Libyan government and our other partners to do just that.  There is no place in the civilized world for senseless murder like what occurred last night.”

Biden praised the work of foreign service officers, saying “it isn’t all about going to coffees and teas,” and paid tribute to those four Americans, including Amb. Chris Stevens, who he called a “fine, fine man” that died in the Libya attacks.

“Last night our nation lost four truly dedicated Americans.  Courageous Americans.  Courageous Americans.  And the loss was accomplished as a consequence of an unwarranted attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi,” Biden said.  

“These brave, and it’s not hyperbole to say brave, our ambassador was in Benghazi while the war was going on, our ambassador risked his life repeatedly while war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on.  These men are as brave and as courageous as any of our warriors that we’ve sent.  And ladies and gentlemen, their loss tragically reminds us again of the incredible price that not only our warriors pay in the service of this great country,” Biden said.

Without naming Mitt Romney by name in his speech, he made a jab at the president’s Republican opponent by stressing the importance of articulating one’s foreign policy positions to voters.

“The task of a president is not only to defend our interests in causes and the cause of freedom abroad.  It is also to build a nation here at home to which the entire world can look and aspire to be like,” Biden said.  “And whether we do that, and how we do that, that is literally the essence of the choice that we face in this presidential election.  It really is that basic.  And foreign policy is not some sidelight to all of this.  And you deserve all of America deserve leaders who will tell you what they intend to do in both spheres.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov012011

American Supermodel Defends Gadhafi Family, Loses Job

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- An American model who has appeared in ads for Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and L'Oreal lost her biggest client Monday after she defended boyfriend Mutassim Gadhafi and the Gadhafi family in an interview with Italian media.

Vanessa Hessler, a 23-year-old Italian-American model, said that she had shared a "very beautiful love story" of four years with Mutassim Gadhafi, the 36-year-old son and heir of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi who died with his father in a last stand outside the Libyan city of Sirte on Oct. 21.

Hessler also said that the West had made a mistake in backing the rebels who ended Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year reign. "We, France and the United Kingdom, financed the rebels but people don't know what they are doing," Hessler told Italian magazine Diva e Donna, adding that she is disgusted by what is happening in Libya and that "the Gaddafi family is not how they are being depicted, they are normal people."

On Monday, Telefonica Germany fired Hessler from a job that had made her instantly recognizable to television viewers across Germany, France and Italy. For several years, Hessler had been known to the public as "Alice," the onscreen spokeswoman for the company's "Alice" internet service, but Telefonica declared an immediate end to the relationship with a tweet. Telefonica said the model's romantic relationships were "private business," but the company "cannot accept her comments on the Libya conflict."

Hessler's Facebook page, however, has been flowing with messages of support from her fans congratulating her on her "courage and honesty." One fan consoled her on her firing with a picture that reads: "Stand for what is right even if you stand alone."

The model was born to an American father and an Italian mother and spent much of her formative years in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct202011

Obama: Gadhafi Death Marks End Of 'Long And Painful Chapter'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Thursday that the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi marks “the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.”

“Today we can definitively say that the Gadhafi regime has come to an end.  The last major regime strongholds have fallen.  The new government is consolidating the control over the country, and one of the world's longest-serving dictators is no more,” Obama said in the first official White House response to the killing of the long-time leader.

The president commended the Libyan people for demanding their rights and noted “for the region, today's events prove once more [that] the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end. Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their human dignity will not succeed.”

Just seven months after the president authorized forces to begin limited military action in Libya, Obama praised the global community who “refused to stand idly by” and hailed the U.S. strategy. “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” he said. Obama had initially said the U.S. commitment in the African country would be limited to "days, not weeks."

Going forward, Obama stressed that the Libyan people face a long road ahead. “The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted, and with this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility: to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gadhafi's dictatorship,” he said.

“We're under no illusions.  Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy.  There will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people.  You have won your revolution, and now we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity,” the president concluded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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