Washington: Al Qaeda`s expansion in Libya, following the successful terrorist attack on the US consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi on September 11 this year, is part of a long-term plan by the terrorist group’s senior leadership, a seasoned counterterrorism investigator has said.
Tom Joscelyn, a senior fellow with Center for Defense of Democracies, said the vacuum left after the attack in Benghazi has created another opening which has allowed the terrorist network to "capitalize on the anti-American momentum and to show how they do have cards to play around the world."
“Al Qaeda`s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has long had his sights on Libya, and what he devised long ago was a plan to send senior operatives from Pakistan and elsewhere into Libya to build up al Qaeda`s clandestine network,”, Joscelyn who is well known in the counterterrorism world for his "drill-down" on al Qaeda operatives, told Fox News.
According to the report, a data prepared by the Library of Congress in conjunction with military analysts say at least two al Qaeda operatives, Abu Anas al Libi and Abd al Baset Azzouz, answer directly to Zawahiri.
Joscelyn said a "witches brew" of three basic elements now creates fertile ground in Libya for the establishment of a safe haven, which include those dispatched by al Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan; the al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; and local militias which are sympathetic to al Qaeda and led by former Guantanamo detainee Abu Sufian Ben Qumu, the report said.
Joscelyn`s research strongly suggests that while groups such as Ansar al-Sharia, also implicated in the consulate attack along with AQIM, publicly distance themselves from al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, there are too many parallels to ignore.
"There has been a big push to distance Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi from the others and from al Qaeda, labeling the organization purely ``local.`` But its involvement in the consulate attack, ties to AQIM, and sharing of a brand name that is used by other al Qaeda-affiliated groups should give one pause when dismissing its ties to al Qaeda," he said.