Press reports said Libyan officials identified Ahmed Abu Khattalah as the leader of the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi.
Citing unnamed Libyan sources, The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets reported that Ahmed Abu Khattalah was identified by several Libyan witnesses as being present, and apparently in charge, during the attack on Sept. 11, which killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (Reuters interviewed Abu Khattalah, who denied organizing the attack. US officials told Reuters that he is under investigation.)
But people with close knowledge of the Islamists networks in Libya express surprise that those same officials are calling Abu Khatalla “the founder and a leader” of Ansar al-Sharia, a militant Islamist group that has also been linked to the consulate attack.
“It is 100 percent not true that Ahmed Abu Khatallah is the founder of Ansar al-Shariah,” says Jahiyah Kuwafi, a member of the Justice and Construction Party, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, who has been in close contact with the leadership of Ansar al-Shariah in recent weeks.
Ahmed El-Gasir, a Libyan political activist, also cast doubt on the link.
“I don’t think Abu Khatallah was a commander, or founder of Ansar al-Sharia,” says Mr. El-Gasir. “He belongs to the takfiri movement, which is driven by hate. They see the society as enemies. It would not enter their minds to do good for the society, as Ansar al-Sharia has done by providing security at a Benghazi hospital, for instance.”