BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The attack that killed four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador, was an organized two-part operation by heavily armed militants that included a precisely timed raid on a supposedly secret safe house just as Libyan and U.S. security forces were arriving to rescue evacuated consulate staff, a senior Libyan security official said on Thursday.
Wanis el-Sharef, eastern Libya’s deputy interior minister, said the attacks Tuesday night were suspected to have been timed to mark the 9/11 anniversary and that the militants used civilians protesting an anti-Islam film as cover for their action. Infiltrators within the security forces may have tipped off militants to the safe house location, he said.
What will the United States do about the attack?
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States “will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act – and make no mistake, justice will be done.”
A senior U.S. official told CNN that American surveillance drones are expected to join the hunt for jihadists who may be tied to the attack. The drones are expected to gather intelligence that will be turned over to Libyan officials for strikes, the official said.
A senior defense official said the drones would be part of “a stepped-up, more focused search” for a particular insurgent cell that may have been behind the killings.
In June, a senior Libyan official told CNN that U.S. controllers were already flying the unmanned craft over suspected jihadist training camps in eastern Libya because of concerns about rising activity by al Qaeda and like-minded groups in the region.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers – the USS Laboon and the USS McFaul – are moving toward the coast of Libya, two U.S. officials told CNN. Both ships are equipped with tomahawk missiles that could be used if a strike was ordered.
About 50 U.S. Marines are headed to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after the attack to beef up security in response to the attack, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The unit is specially trained to retake or guard diplomatic installations and other U.S. facilities in troubled regions.
The United States said it also would increase security at its embassies around the world.