WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. counterterrorism officials told lawmakers Thursday that uncooperative or less-than-capable local law enforcement in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia is slowing the search for suspects in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya on Sept. 11.
Authorities in the region have not yet arrested many of the suspects the U.S. wants to question about the violent attack on the American compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, according to two U.S. officials briefed on a private House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, where counterterrorism, intelligence and law enforcement chiefs disclosed the information to lawmakers.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose the information, said Egypt has arrested Egyptian Islamic Jihad member Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad for possible links to the attack, but key al-Qaida sympathizers remain free. They added that U.S. requests to go after the suspects unilaterally have also been rebuffed. The arrest was initially reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The officials said that Thursday's hearing was intended to re-focus lawmakers' discussions on the status of the investigation into finding those who carried out the attack and holding them accountable. Until now, discussions had largely focused on how the White House described the attack in its aftermath and whether U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice played down al-Qaida's possible role by blaming it on an angry mob.
The hearing comes a week before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton briefs lawmakers on an independent review of the attack by an accountability review board, led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering. Officials expect that the review will focus on security assessments done of the consulate before the attack, as well as the actions of the diplomatic security agents during it.