Libya says 50 held over US ambassador’s killing

September 16, 2012 7:05 pm
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US Marines salute during the transfer of remains ceremony for the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya/AFP
TRIPOLI, Sep 16 – Libya’s parliament chief announced on Sunday the arrests of some 50 people over the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens in an attack he said was planned, although Washington said it was spontaneous.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, meanwhile, said the American military has no major plans to bolster its forces in the Middle East despite a week of violent protests targeting diplomatic outposts, including at the US consulate in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi where Stevens died.

“The number reached about 50,” Mohammed al-Megaryef, president of the Libyan National Congress, said in an interview with CBS News.

Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday when suspected Islamic militants fired on the US consulate in Benghazi with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.

Megaryef said “a few” of those who joined in the attack were foreigners who had entered Libya “from different directions, some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria.”

“The others are affiliates and maybe sympathisers,” he added.

Megaryef said the government has learned the attack was not the result of spontaneous anger over a US-made anti-Islam movie which has triggered sometimes deadly protests across the Arab and Muslim world.

“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago. And they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he told CBS.

Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday when suspected Islamic militants fired on the US consulate in Benghazi with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.

But Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, offered a very different account, saying the assault began with a “spontaneous” protest over the video.

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice said.

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the consulate to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” she told ABC’s “This Week” programme.

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