WASHINGTON — U.S. officials suspect a former Guantanamo Bay detainee played a role in the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, and are planning to designate the group he leads as a foreign terrorism organization, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
Militiamen under the command of Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, participated in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the officials said.
Witnesses have told American officials that Qumu's men were in Benghazi before the attack on Sept. 11, 2011, according to the officials. It's unclear if they where there as part of a preplanned attack or out of happenstance.
The State Department is expected to tie Qumu's group to the attack when it designates branches of Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah, Tunisia and Benghazi as foreign terrorism organizations.
Qumu and two others suspected in the attack — militia leaders Ahmed Abu Khattala and Seif Allah bin Hassine — will also be identified as "specially designated global terrorists," a determination that allows U.S. officials to freeze their financial assets and bar American citizens and companies from doing business with them.
The officials spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity.
Qumu, a 54-year-old Libyan, fought alongside the Taliban after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and then fled to Pakistan and was later arrested in Peshawar. He was turned over to the United States and held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. In 2007, Qumu was sent to Libya, where he was detained. The Libyan government released him in 2008.