- Sufyan Ben Qumu was classified as a ‘medium to high’ national security risk before his release from American custody
- Qumu reportedly was Osama bin Laden’s driver and worked for the al-Qaeda founder’s company in Sudan
- Libyans promised to keep him behind bars, but he was released in 2010
- Qumu was a former Libyan army tank driver and became a leader of the rebels during the uprising
By Michael Zennie
PUBLISHED:17:42 EST, 19 September 2012| UPDATED:20:28 EST, 19 September 2012
Leader: Sufyan Ben Qumu, who has known extremist ties, became one of the top commanders of rebel forces in Benghazi
A former al-Qaeda terrorist released from Guantanamo Bay is believed to be the leader of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the US Ambassador, it was revealed on Wednesday.
Sufyan Ben Qumu, who was reportedly once Osama bin Laden’s driver, was let out of the US military detention center in Cuba in 2007 and turned over to the government of Muammar Gaddafi on the condition he be kept behind bars.
Now, Fox Newsreports he may have led the September 11 attack on the American consulate that resulted in the death of John Christopher Stevens — the first US Ambassador killed by violence overseas since 1979.
The US military characterized him as a ‘medium to high’ risk to national security while he was in US custody and he refused to cooperate with authorities and explain his past associations with Islamic extremists.
Qumu, 53, is a Libyan army veteran who was jailed by Qaddafi and later escaped and moved to Sudan, where he worked for one of Osama bin Laden’s holding companies.
According to some reports, he was bin Laden’s driver during his time at the company. However, he denies this.
Later, he moved to Pakistan and slipped across the border into Afghanistan, where he began working at a charity that was a front for al-Qaeda in the summer of 2001.
He was arrested in Pakistan by local authorities shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan. He was taken to the Guantanamo Bay detention center and held there for six years.
Attack: Qumu was characterized by the US military as a ‘medium to high’ national security risk
Deadly: Four people died, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, during an assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya
Despite his lengthy association with extremists, including the 9-11 mastermind and al-Qaeda leader himself, the military recommended in a 2005 report sending him back to his home country of Libya.
In 2007, Qumu was released from Gitmo and turned over to Gaddafi on the condition that he be kept in prison.
But, in 2010 Gaddafi freed him from the notorious Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, along with 37 other prisoners, to celebrate the dictator’s 41st year in power.
During the uprising, Qumu emerged as a leader of the rebels.
He was a tank driver during his time in the Libyan army, though he had been arrested several times on drug and alcohol offenses.
Tragic: John Christopher Stevens is the first US Ambassador to be killed by violence overseas since 1979. He apparently died of smoke inhalation after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi
Victims: Sean Smith (left), 34, was a foreign service computer expert who had previously been posted to Baghdad. Glen Doherty, 42, was a former US Navy SEAL who was working as a private security contractor
The report came as a senior US official called the assault on the American diplomatic outpost a ‘terrorist attack.’
It was the first time the White House has referred to the deadly incursion as terrorism and it undermines the US position that it was ‘spontaneous.’
‘Yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,’ Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
Wrecked: The consulate was badly damaged in the attack that forced US personnel to flee
Extremists: The Libyan government blamed the attack on Islamic extremists angry over the release of a trailer for an American anti-Islam movie
In addition to Mr Stevens, who friends said devoted his life to promoting peace and cultural understanding, three other Americans were killed when a mob attacked and burned the consulate in former rebel stronghold city.
Sean Smith, a foreign service officer, was a 34-year-old father of two. Glen Doherty, 42, was a former US Navy SEAL who was working at the consulate as a private security contractor.
The attack on the consulate came after the release of a trailer for the controversial movie ‘The Innocence of Muslims,’ which paints a portrait of Islam that many in the Muslim world find deeply offensive.
Destruction: The White House maintains that attack was the work of a mob of Islamic extremists, not organized terrorists
Protests: Unrest remains high in Libya after the release of ‘The Innocence of Muslims’
The White House maintains that there was no evidence the attack was preplanned by a terrorist group — rather, they say, it appears to have been a spontaneous mob of Islamic extremists.
‘We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda’s affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,’ Mr Olsen told the Senate.
However, he added, ‘the facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy, the attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours.’
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