Two days before the deadly Sept. 11 attack on Americans in Libya, three U.S. officials met pro-government militias working to provide security in the city of Benghazi.
In that meeting, which included the American economic and political counselors, Mohammed el Gharabi, a leader of a prominent militia, says he warned the Americans that the security situation in Benghazi was deteriorating.
Assassinations are becoming rampant; no one is safe, including militiamen like himself, he says he told the Americans.
Ansar al-Sharia, the ultraconservative armed Islamist group accused of taking part in the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, denies it was involved. But the group's leadership stopped short of condemning the deadly attack. A top U.S. counterterrorism official says they are looking at the group in connection with the assault.
Ansar al-Sharia is one of the most powerful Islamist militias in eastern Libya. The brigade claims hundreds of men who fought, with U.S. and NATO support, to unseat strongman Moammar Gadhafi last year.
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya last week has led to dueling versions of what unfolded that night in Benghazi.
To hear the Obama administration tell it, the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans was spontaneous — and staged by local extremists who saw an opportunity to hijack peaceful demonstrations against an offensive film.
The Libyans have a different view. They say it was a premeditated strike, launched by foreign fighters with ties to al-Qaida.