White House: Group that Carried Out Benghazi Attack Not Al Qaeda

Some things change, as sixteen months after the Benghazi terrorist attack, the Obama administration officially recognized the group that carried the attack as terrorists. But some things don’t change. The administration still insists Ansar al-Shari’a organizations are not affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The State Department announced on Friday that it official recognized three groups: Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi, Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah, and Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia as separate foreign terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

A Libyan man stands in a building used by Ansar al-Sharia militia after it was torched by residents on November 25, 2013 in Benghazi. (AFP/Abdullah Doma)

A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney why the administration waited until now to recognize the groups as terrorist organizations, if they were Al Qaeda affiliates and if the recognition came because of the Benghazi attacks.

“Ansar al-Shari’a was not designated,” Carney said. “Ansar al-Shari’a groups were designated as terrorist organizations.”

He want to say, “None of these Ansar al-Shari’a organizations are official affiliates for Al Qaeda under Ayman al-Zawahiri.”

The reporter followed, “Ideologically they are because it’s the same as the one in Syria. They are not part of it, but ideologically they are.”

Carney said it is the administration’s determination that it isn’t affiliated with Al Qaeda.

“The U.S. government is committed to taking all appropriate actions against the organizations and individuals responsible for the attacks against the United State diplomatic facilities in Libya and Tunisia and do everything we can to prevent similar attacks in the future,” Carney said. “The State Department announcement of these designation is a reflection of that commitment.”

“Our focus continues to be working with the Libyan government to bring the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks to justice and to work tirelessly to assure the safety of our personnel serving overseas,” Carney continued. “Likewise, we also remain committed to working with the Tunisian government to bring to justice those responsible for the Sept. 14, 2012 on the U.S. Embassy and American school in Tunis.”

The terrorists who attacked the U.S. compound in Benghazi killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. It occurred in the middle of the 2012 presidential election when President Barack Obama campaigned heavily on having decimated Al Qaeda.

A poll by YouGov released this week found that a plurality of 46 percent believe the Benghazi attack involved Al Qaeda, compared to 16 percent who believed Al Qaeda was not involved. The remainder said they were not sure.

The Ansar al-Shari’a organizations were created after the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi’s regime fell, according to the State Department.

“Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah have been involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya, and the September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya,” a State Department release says. “Members of both organizations continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests in Libya.”

The other organization was involved in terror attacks in Tunisia on U.S. facilities.

“Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia was involved in the September 14, 2012 attack against the U.S. Embassy and American school in Tunis, which put the lives of over one hundred United States employees in the Embassy at risk,” the State Department release states. “The Tunisian government has declared Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia a terrorist organization.”

Related: Over a year later, the State Department has officially classified the Benghazi attackers “terrorists”, but they caution that this isn’t “core” Al Qaeda. The Real News panel looked into this distinction on TheBlaze TV.