Long-elusive Philippines peace accord reflects exhaustion

Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in southern Philippines
With 150,000 dead from decades of religious and ethnic fighting and no family in the southern Philippines free of fear they could be the next slain, Filipinos and their fractious leaders have run out of energy for rebellion.

A road map to peace unveiled this week by the Philippine government and the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been hailed by Muslims and Catholics alike as a glimmer of hope that an end is in sight to bloody clashes that have racked the islands since the 1960s. The deal also eases Western concern that foreign Islamic militants could be drawn to remote Philippine jungle camps, already the scene of kidnappings and beheadings.

GlobalFocusUnder the accord to be signed Sunday in Manila, the rebels would eventually enjoy self-rule over a yet-to-be-defined territorial entity to be called  Bangsamoro, or Moro Nation. They would also have more control over the region's rich tropical forests and oil and gas reserves.

The agreement lays out a four-year transition to autonomy for the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. But huge hurdles remain to be cleared: How does the government integrate Islamic rebels into the mainly Catholic ranks of the national armed forces? Which areas of the ethnically diverse south will be included in the new state? Will sharia law be invoked in Bangsamoro, and can it realistically be applied only to the Muslim population, as proposed during the internationally mediated negotiations?

The most perplexing question may be how police and soldiers can disarm the legions of gun-toting rebels and resisters who constitute the only law in much of the south's remote mountains and jungles.

Having weathered dictatorship, corruption and conflict for much of the 66 years they have been independent, Filipinos are eager to answer those daunting questions, relief officials and analysts say.

The agreement reached this week is less the product of strategic give-and-take during years of negotiations than a white flag of surrender to exhaustion sent up by both the government and the rebels. That is the view of Albert Santoli, president of the Asia America Initiative that for more than a decade has provided relief to the tens of thousands of Filipinos who have fled the fighting.

"People are tired of killing each other. They're tired of never knowing if they're going to have to flee their homes," Santoli said. He pointed to the relative harmony in refugee camps that shelter internally displaced Muslims and Christians together as grounds for confidence that Filipinos are eager to work for peace.

Although he views a 2016 target for creating Bangsamoro as unrealistic, Santoli said the deadline may motivate young Filipinos to take advantage of the apparent sincerity of President Benigno Aquino III to broker an end to the fighting.

"The hope is that if everyone is committed to the process that things will get better, that they'll be able to create an attitude of cooperation among youth," Santoli said. "But in practical terms, it will take a generation."

Michael Buehler, Philippines expert for the Asia Society and a political science professor at Northern Illinois University, sees the potential for success in this latest peace effort of the post-World War II era.

"Mindanao is one of the most resource-rich parts of the country," which is its blessing and its curse, Buehler said. The decades of fighting have prevented the south from tapping its valuable tropical woods, minerals and fuels. They have also provided cover for backdoor deals between business interests in the north and southern provincial kingpins who often have sway over the rebels in their fiefdoms.

"Very often Manila has had a divide-and-rule approach to problems in the south," Buehler said. If autonomy looks to be getting in the way of deals cut on the sidelines of the conflict, "that could provide incentive for them to undermine the peace plan," Buehler said of the de facto rural power brokers unlikely to be eager to step aside for Islamic rebel leaders. 

Still, the new plan is seen as a serious effort to integrate Muslims who have long felt like outsiders in the Catholic-dominated state, said Gerard Finin, a senior fellow at Honolulu's East West Center who has traveled and worked in the Philippines since the 1970s.

He sees two major challenges ahead, though. The mediators -- which include the United States, Europe, Malaysia and other Muslim nations -- must strive to keep the rebels unified behind the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders during the difficult negotiations ahead. And all must remain vigilant, Finin said, in protecting any new Bangsamoro government from being undermined by the multitude of political, economic and tribal conflicts of interest fueling the violence.

"There are still many big questions to be answered," Finin said. "But things are looking better today than they have for some time."

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Photo: Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels patrol inside their base at Camp Darapan on the island of Mindanao in 2011. The rebels and other unauthorized gunmen would be disarmed under a peace plan to be signed Sunday in Manila. Credit: Ted Aljibe / AFP/Getty Images

 


Radical cleric, 4 others extradited to U.S. for terrorism trials

Supporters of radical Muslim cleric protest ahead of his extradition
LONDON -- A radical Muslim cleric who applauded the Sept. 11 attacks and four other terrorism suspects were bundled onto U.S. government planes at a British military base early Saturday and extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges, a British official confirmed.

Abu Hamza Masri and four other terrorism suspects left RAF Mildenhall air base on two planes that had flown in from Washington and New York, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The extradition brought to a close a years-long legal battle waged by Masri to evade U.S. justice for allegedly trying to set up a training camp in Oregon for anti-U.S. insurgents to be sent to the fight in Afghanistan. Masri, who had called  during incendiary sermons at a London-area mosque for nonbelievers to be put to death, on Friday lost his final legal bid to avoid being shipped to the United States to face charges. He is also accused of taking part in kidnappings of Western tourists in Yemen.

"I am pleased the decision of the court today meant that these men, who used every available opportunity to frustrate and delay the extradition process over many years, could finally be removed," Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement.

Abu Hamza MasriShe said Britain and the U.S. had "put plans in place so that tonight these men could be handed over within hours of the court's decision. It is right that these men, who are all accused of very serious offenses, will finally face justice."

Britain’s High Court rejected Masri’s last-minute petition to block his extradition on medical grounds. The judges said there was an “overwhelming public interest” in seeing the extradition carried out and that there was no reason the controversial imam could not find adequate treatment in the U.S. for his ailments, including depression and diabetes.

In addition to Masri, the judges cleared the way for four other terrorism suspects to be extradited, including two men accused of involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Masri, who has only one eye and uses metal hooks for hands, is notorious for his militant sermons. He exasperated the British and U.S. government for years with his continued appeals to British and European courts against being sent to the U.S.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, upheld previous rulings in favor of Masri’s extradition, a decision seen as an important victory for transatlantic relations and cooperation in counter-terrorism matters. Last month, the same court rejected Masri’s appeal to revisit the case.

After their defeat in the Strasbourg court, Masri’s lawyers filed a last-ditch appeal to Britain's High Court, pleading for extradition to be suspended because of their client’s deteriorating health. Masri was  in a British prison serving a seven-year sentence for inciting racial hatred when he was taken to the RAF base late Friday.

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Photo: Demonstrators protest Friday outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London against the extradition of five terrorism suspects to the United States. Radical cleric Abu Hamza Masri and the other four were flown from Britain early Saturday to the U.S. Credit: Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images

Insert: Abu Hamza Masri in 2003. Credit: Adrian Dennis / European Pressphoto Agency


Radical Muslim cleric loses appeal against extradition to the U.S.

Abu hamza
This story has been updated.

LONDON – A Muslim cleric who applauded the Sept. 11 attacks and called for nonbelievers to be put to death lost what appeared to be his final legal bid Friday in a long-running battle to avoid being shipped to the United States to face terrorism charges.

[Updated 4:20 pm Oct. 5: Abu Hamza Masri and four others sought for trial in the United States were put on two planes at the RAF Mildenhall base and departed for an unspecified U.S. destination, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported early Saturday.]

Britain’s High Court rejected Masri’s last-minute petition to block his extradition on medical grounds. The judges said there was an “overwhelming public interest” in seeing the extradition carried out and that there was no reason the controversial imam could not find adequate treatment in the U.S. for his ailments, including depression and diabetes.

The ruling appears to remove the final impediment to putting Masri on a plane to the U.S., which both British and American officials are eager to see happen as quickly as possible. U.S. authorities want Masri to stand trial on allegations that he tried to establish a camp in Oregon to train recruits for the Afghan insurgency and that he participated in the kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen.

In addition to Masri, the judges cleared the way for four other terrorism suspects to be extradited, including two men accused of involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

But the Egyptian-born Masri’s case has attracted the most attention. The hard-line cleric, who is notorious for his militant sermons and his distinctive look -– he has only one eye and uses metal hooks for hands -– has exasperated the government here for years with his continued appeals to British and European courts against being sent to the U.S.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, upheld previous rulings in favor of Masri’s extradition, a decision seen as an important victory for trans-Atlantic relations and cooperation in counterterrorism matters. Last month, the same court rejected Masri’s appeal to revisit the case, which seemed to be the end of the protracted legal saga.

But before relieved British officials could get him out of their country, Masri’s lawyers filed a last-ditch appeal to the High Court, pleading for extradition to be suspended because of their client’s deteriorating health. Masri is currently in a British prison serving a seven-year sentence for inciting racial hatred.

Friday’s ruling came as little surprise. During three days of hearings this week, the two judges on the case expressed thinly veiled skepticism over Masri’s claims of illness, questioning why he had not raised the issue in previous court hearings.

Britain’s Home Office welcomed the judges’ decision. “We are now working to extradite these men as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.

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Photo: Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza Masri, right, preaches to followers at a London mosque in 2004 as a masked bodyguard looks on. Credit: Carl de Souza / AFP/Getty Images


Senior British police officer faces charges in phone-hacking scandal

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, a senior British counter-terrorism officer appeared in court to face charges tied to the police investigation into phone hacking by tabloid journalistsLONDON -- A senior British counter-terrorism officer appeared in court Monday to face charges tied to the police investigation into phone hacking by tabloid journalists.

In a brief pretrial hearing, Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, the former head of Scotland Yard's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, was accused of breaching Britain's Official Secrets Act.

Authorities allege that in September 2010 Casburn took home secret police documents relating to an inquiry into phone hacking and contacted the News of the World tabloid, offering it information on the police probe, then known as Operation Varec. 

Police at the time had new information from the New York Times concerning illegal phone tapping by journalists from the News of the World, although authorities did not reopen the phone-hacking investigations until July 2011.  

Casburn, 53, is also charged with misconduct in public office following a police investigation into illegal payments to public officials by journalists in return for information. That probe, known as Operation Elveden, is one of three police inquiries into the suspected widespread use of phone and computer hacking by the media over the past decade.

Casburn, who is reported to be the first defendant facing charges related to the Elveden probe to appear in court, was released on bail and ordered to appear in the Central Criminal Court on Nov. 2. She has been suspended from duty.

Trials are just beginning after more than a year of investigations and civil inquiries into illegal communication interceptions by the news organizations, which have resulted in more than 70 arrests of high-profile figures in the media and public service.

Last week saw the pretrial appearance in court of a dozen high-profile editors and executives from Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World and from News International, the paper’s publisher and the British branch of the huge News Corp. conglomerate.

The tabloid was closed down by the Murdoch family following public outrage over revelations that News of the World journalists in 2003 had hacked into the mobile phone messages of a missing teenager who was later found slain.

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Photo: pril Casburn arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Monday. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press

 

 

Iran dissident group removed from U.S. terrorist list

Khalq supporters
WASHINGTON -- The State Department formally removed the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin Khalq from its list of terrorist groups, even while pointing out its lingering concerns about the organization.

In a statement issued Friday under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's name, the department said it knew of no confirmed acts of terrorism committed by the group in more than a decade and cited its cooperation in removing some of its members from a paramilitary camp in Iraq formerly under U.S. protection.

Even so, the department said it remained concerned about allegations that the group, also known by the initials MEK,  had abused some of its own members.

"The Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992," the statement said.

MEK members follow an ideology that combines elements of Marxism and Islamism. Some critics and former members have described it as a cult.

It has been a staunch opponent of the Iranian regime and is viewed by Tehran as a mortal enemy. Its leadership, based in Paris, has campaigned for years in Washington to have it removed from the stigmatizing terrorist list.

It has paid a list of prominent former U.S. officials and journalists to lobby for it or speak publicly on its behalf. Although group members dream of a day when the group could run a new Iran, many analysts are skeptical that it has much popular support or influence. 

Maryam Rajavi, the group's Paris-based leader, hailed Clinton for her decision, saying it "was difficult and required political courage."

The Iranian government condemned the decision and blamed the group for an incident in which  a senior Iranian diplomat in New York for the U.N. General Assembly was assaulted on the street.

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Photo: Supporters of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin Khalq celebrate the group's removal from the U.S. terrorism  list in Washington. Credit: Antonov Mladen / Agence France-Presse

 


European court clears way for militant cleric's extradition to U.S.

Masri
GLASGOW, Scotland -- A radical Muslim cleric who praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has lost his final appeal against extradition from Britain to the United States, where he faces allegations that he tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

Abu Hamza Masri had argued to the European Court of Human Rights that he would face inhumane and degrading treatment if he were shipped to the U.S. and imprisoned there. But the court Monday released a terse statement upholding its decision in April to allow the extradition of Masri and four other terrorism suspects to proceed, for which Washington and London have both been pressing.

It was the last legal avenue for the Egyptian-born Masri, who gained notoriety at a North London mosque for his fiery sermons lauding the Sept. 11 attacks, advocating death by stoning for gay people and calling for nonbelievers to be killed. He is in a British prison serving a seven-year sentence for inciting murder and racial hatred.

Britain has been eager to wash its hands of Masri and promised Monday to ship him to the U.S. as soon as possible.

Continue reading »

U.S. to remove Iranian group Mujahedin Khalq from terrorist list

Khalq camp
WASHINGTON -- The small but influential Iranian exile group Mujahedin Khalq will be removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, a U.S. official said Friday, following a high-priced lobbying campaign claiming the controversial group had renounced violence.

The group’s advocates on Capitol Hill welcomed the State Department decision, which was conveyed to Congress in a classified letter. But outside experts warned that legitimizing an organization that carried out deadly attacks in Iran years ago could give Tehran a propaganda boost as Washington and its allies try to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Members of the group, known as the MEK, portray themselves as Iran’s main political opposition, but they have little apparent support in Iran. The MEK has been based in Iraq since the early 1980s, when it sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in an  eight-year war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians. It has since drawn scrutiny for its cult-like practices, including mandatory celibacy, forced labor and restrictions on leaving the group.

The U.S. government added the MEK to its terrorist organization list in 1997, but members were disarmed by U.S. forces after the 2003 Iraq invasion of Iraq.

The MEK filed a lawsuit challenging the terrorist designation, and a federal court ruled that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton must decide by Oct. 1 whether to remove the group from the list. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland declined to discuss the decision.  

“We anticipate being able to make a public announcement about it sometime before Oct. 1,” Nuland said.

The apparent resolution comes six days after the MEK abandoned a former military base in eastern Iraq to avert a showdown with Iraqi authorities, who view the group as a dangerous nuisance.

In recent years, it has enlisted Washington luminaries in both parties to speak on its behalf or appear at rallies. Among them are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Democratic Party leader Howard Dean, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and President Obama’s  former national security advisor, James L. Jones.

Some of the officials reportedly were paid tens of thousands of dollars in fees. The group also spent considerable sums on full-page newspaper advertisements and other media.

Critics of the MEK faulted the Obama administration for bowing to the lobbying effort, warning that the appearance of U.S. support for a group that many Iranians view as traitorous could weaken Iran’s pro-democracy movement. Some current and former U.S. officials have called for arming the MEK to conduct attacks against Iran, which experts say could tip the United States and Iran closer to war.

“It’s a gift to [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei,” Iran’s supreme leader, said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group that opposes the government in Tehran.

“At a moment when the United States is trying to put pressure on the Iranian regime through sanctions, and have that economic hardship for the people translate into them putting pressure on their own government, that policy is undermined if the balance of public anger is directed to the U.S. rather than the regime itself,” Parsi said.

According to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity before the formal announcement, Clinton approved the delisting after the last MEK members vacated Camp Ashraf, their longtime encampment in eastern Iraq, on Sept. 16. Iraq’s government had vowed to close Ashraf, but MEK members repeatedly stalled, prompting fear of bloodshed if Iraqi soldiers tried to close the camp by force.

The group is at a temporary camp near the Baghdad airport awaiting resettlement abroad.

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Photo: Members of the Mujahedin Khalq hold banners during a tour by foreign diplomats in Iraq on  Sept. 11, 2012.  Credit: Hadi Mizban / Associated Press 

 

Europe tackles torture allegations that were swept aside in U.S.

European courts trying torture cases
When CIA agents nabbed an Egyptian cleric on the streets of Milan, Italy,  and whisked him off for interrogation in a country that turned a blind eye to torture, they violated international law and were justly sentenced to prison, Italy's highest court has ruled in a landmark case against the U.S. counter-terrorism tactic known as "extraordinary rendition."

GlobalFocusThe final judgment by Italy's Court of Cassation on Wednesday upheld the convictions of 23 American operatives for their roles in the 2003 abduction of Hassan Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. Their five- and seven-year prison terms meted out by a lower court three years ago were not only upheld but extended by two years, although it appeared unlikely that  any of the convicted U.S. operatives would be surrendered to serve their time.

Human rights advocates concede that  the legal judgment against rendition is mostly symbolic. Unless Italy seeks extradition -- something Washington has been fighting fiercely, leaked diplomatic cables suggest -- the only punishment the Americans are likely to face is the threat of arrest if they travel to Europe or nations elsewhere that might elect to fulfill commitments under the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Despite the limited reach of the Italian court's decision, rights advocates have applauded the ruling as evidence that European courts are willing to bring to justice those who violate the law in the so-called war on terror, even though the U.S. government has declined to do so.

Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro, who brought the case against the Americans and a few Italian intelligence agents complicit in Nasr's abduction, declared that the high court ruling is a definitive judgment that rendition is "incompatible with democracy." He said a government decision on whether to seek extradition wouldn't be expected until the high court issues its full written opinion, which could take two to three more months.

The CIA did not respond to a call and email from The Times asking for comment on the Italian court ruling and whether the agency is advising the convicted Americans against foreign travel.

The United States has an extradition treaty with Italy, and any request for Washington to deliver the Americans to serve their prison terms would be difficult for the U.S. government to ignore, said former Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay war-crimes tribunal who was forced to retire after criticizing U.S. handling of terrorism suspects.

"If the Italians were to submit an extradition request, there would be no legal basis for us not to comply," Davis said. "I’m sure there’ll be a lot of behind-the-scenes diplomatic wrangling on the Italian government not to submit the request."

The Italian case isn't the only one threatening to spotlight legal breaches by American agents since Sept. 11, Davis said. He pointed out that most of the legal actions abroad in defiance of the Obama administration's decision to "look forward, not back" on counter-terrorism excesses are coming from allied countries, "not Iran or Cuba or Venezuela."

Abu Omar insertA Spanish judge in 2009 ordered an investigation of torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay. Polish authorities are demanding full disclosure of the former government's complicity in CIA detention and interrogation of rendition subjects at a remote secret prison there. The British government has paid compensation to citizens and legal residents released after abusive CIA interrogations, including plaintiffs whose cases were thrown out of U.S. courts when the George W.  Bush and Obama administrations claimed that to try them would expose "state secrets." In Canada, the government has apologized to and compensated Maher Arar, a citizen nabbed by U.S. agents while traveling home from Tunisia in 2002 and sent to Syria for "enhanced interrogation."

Nasr, an Egyptian-born imam, was suspected of recruiting men from his Milan mosque to fight U.S. and other foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the impetus for his Feb. 17, 2003, abduction and delivery to a secret interrogation site in his homeland. He said he was beaten, bound and blindfolded for months in a cold cell and subjected to electrical shocks to his genitals while being questioned.

A lower Italian court found the 23 Americans guilty in 2009 and sentenced former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady to seven years in prison and the others to five years' detention. The high court stiffened those sentences by two years and sent back to the lower court several cases against Italian agents involved in the Nasr rendition that had been dismissed on immunity claims.

While the Italian judiciary, like that of the United States, has no power to enforce its rulings if the government fails to request extradition, the rendition judgment serves a powerful symbolic purpose in branding those who would violate laws against torture as criminals, said Jamil Dakwar, director of the human rights program of the American Civil Liberties Union. He pointed out an array of other legal challenges to rendition and warrantless detention brought by former terrorism suspects that are making their way through foreign and multinational courts.

The Italian ruling this week, Dakwar said, "sent a strong message that if the United States fails to hold accountable its own officials for human rights violations that European countries will do so."

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Photo: A police officer stands guard at the Milan trial of 23 Americans involved in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric. European and international courts are prosecuting cases of alleged torture of terrorism suspects despite the U.S. government's policy against exposing its counter-terrorism practices to the judgment of the courts. Credit: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP/Getty Images

Insert: Egyptian-born cleric  Hassan Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, says he was kidnapped in Milan and tortured in an Egyptian prison. Credit: Amr Nabil / Associated Press


Suicide blasts at Mogadishu cafe reportedly kill 15

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Suicide bombers set off at least two explosions at a popular restaurant in Mogadishu late Thursday, killing about 15 people including journalists and two police officers, authorities said.

The Village Restaurant is owned by Ahmed Jama, a British Somali profiled in The Times last month who has several restaurants all with the same name. The one hit Thursday is located in central Mogadishu, opposite the National Theater -- itself the target of a suicide bombing in April -- and is popular with Somali journalists and civil servants.

No group had claimed responsibility for the blasts. The Al Qaeda-linked Islamic militia Al Shabab, which has carried out many bombings in the capital in the past, did not issue an immediate commented.

Some witnesses reported two blasts, while others said there were three. Witnesses described a scene of mayhem, with blood spattered across the floor, the bodies of dead and wounded people strewn among the plastic chairs and cups.

Continue reading »

White House says Libya attack was terrorism

Memorial for U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens
WASHINGTON -- The White House is now describing the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as a “terrorist attack,” a shift in emphasis after days of describing the lethal assault as a spontaneous eruption of anger over an anti-Islamic film made in California.

“It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday as President Obama traveled to Florida for a campaign event. “Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials."

Carney said investigators have “indications of possible involvement” of Al Qaeda in the Magreb, but he said there is no evidence “at this point to suggest that this is a significantly pre-planned attack.”

White House officials have not previously described the attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, as a terrorist act. The administration, and Obama’s reelection campaign, have been sensitive to allegations that the attack involved a security lapse, or a broader policy failure, in the middle of a presidential race.

When Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the incident an “an act of terror” last weekend, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign suggested the senator was being political.

Carney’s comments echoed testimony from National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, who on Wednesday told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security that those involved in the attack were either local militants or foreigners with possible connections to Al Qaeda.

"I would say they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack,” he said of the four Americans.

The White House initially blamed the video, which ridiculed the prophet Muhammad, for anti-American protests and violence that began in Cairo and spread to 20 countries last week.

Carney has gradually calibrated his remarks to say administration officials were waiting on the results of an FBI investigation and that no possible cause had been ruled out.

On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said the attack apparently began as a “spontaneous reaction” to the news of the Cairo protest.

But later “there were extremist elements that joined and escalated the violence. Whether they were Al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremist or Al Qaeda itself, I think, is one of the things we'll have to determine,” Rice said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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Photo: Libyan President Mohammed Megarif speaks Thursday during a memorial service in Tripoli, Libya, for U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three consulate staff killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11. Credit: Abdel Magid al-Fergany / Associated Press

 

 

 


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