Officials: Embassy Protests Likely Pre Planned, Coordinated

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

While officials have been reluctant to comment on whether the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Egypt and consulate in Libya were planned in advance, intelligence experts and U.S. government officials are starting to admit it is unlikely that the attacks were a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam movie, the WTOP reports.

USA Today explains [all subsequent emphasis added]:

Days of planning and online promotion by hard-line Islamist leaders helped whip up the mobs that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and launched a deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya that killed an ambassador and three others.

[...]

The protest was planned by Salafists well before news circulated of an objectionable video ridiculing Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, said Eric Trager, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was announced Aug. 30 by Jamaa Islamiya, a State Department-designated terrorist group, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

When the video started circulating, Nader Bakkar, the spokesman for the Egyptian Salafist Noor party, which holds about 25% of the seats in parliament, called on people to go to the embassy. He also called on non-Islamist soccer hooligans, known as Ultras, to join the protest. On Monday, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, Mohamed, tweeted that people should go to the embassy and “defend the prophet,” Trager said.

WTOP adds of Libya:

The incident does not appear to be a random mob scene, but rather an opportunity that militants seized, sources say.  The attackers used a rocket-propelled grenade, a weapon not traditionally carried by protesters, but commonly used by terrorists.

The attack is believed to have come in two waves.  The first wave got inside of the compound, and a second wave penetrated a secure room inside the building.  This fact raises questions about how the attackers knew the location of the rooms inside, sources say.

Exact motivations for the attack in Libya are still being determined.  Depending on the source, it was revenge for the killing of a high-ranking al-Qaeda member killed in June, or the work of ex-Gaddafi forces.

Libya’s ambassador to Washington maintains the latter, saying: “We know that Qaddafi’s associates are in Libya. Of course, they took this chance to infiltrate among the people… I think it is not clear who [the attackers] are exactly but I am sure they were infiltrated by these people. They still have money. They still have support…”

But Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, commented: “The Libyan government has been blaming amorphous pro-Qaddafi elements for everything that goes wrong in their country.”

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which controls much of the current government, released a statement Wednesday that blamed unrest almost entirely on the anti-Islam film.

This is a breaking story.  Updates will be added.