The Blog

CIA Warned of 'Jihadist' Threat to Cairo Embassy

3:02 PM, May 15, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Obama administration’s editing of the Benghazi talking points not only obscured what really happened in Libya on September 11, 2012, it also confused the events of earlier that day in Cairo, Egypt. The editing process specifically removed any hint that “jihadists” were encouraged to “break into” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. In fact, jihadists were incited to act by Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as several other al Qaeda-linked extremists.

At least six versions of the Benghazi talking points drafted on September 14, 2012 included the following sentence, or language nearly identical to it:

“On 10 September the Agency notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.”

By the morning of September 15, however, this language had been struck. According to the House Republicans’ “Interim Progress Report” on the Benghazi attack, a Deputies Committee Meeting consisting of representatives from several departments was held that morning. Afterwards, “a small group of officials from both the State Department and the CIA worked to modify the talking points,” striking, among other items, “any and all suggestions that the State Department had been previously warned of threats in the region.”

The pre-9/11 threats were plain to see.

On his Twitter feed on September 10, for instance, Mohammed al Zawahiri called for a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. A translation of the text in his tweet reads, “Victory for the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him: Sheikh Mohammed al Zawahiri calls on the sons of the Jihadi Movement to participate tomorrow in the demonstration in front of the American Embassy.”

A banner showing an al Qaeda-style black flag was included in Mohammed al Zawahiri’s tweet. Part of the banner reads: “Demonstration for the victory of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).” The banner continues: “In front of the American Embassy. Assembly time: 4.”

Mohammed al Zawahiri’s tweet, therefore, telegraphed the jihadists’ interest in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The younger Zawahiri frequently flaunts his loyalty to al Qaeda’s ideology, even while claiming that he is not tied to the al Qaeda organization. The latter claim is extremely dubious and should not be accepted at face value.

While being interviewed during the September 11 protest in Cairo, Mohammed al Zawahiri admitted that he helped stage it.

“We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions including the Islamic Jihad (and the) Hazem Abu Ismail movement,” he said, according to CNN. Islamic Jihad is the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a designated terrorist organization that is a core part of al Qaeda’s international jihadist coalition. Abu Ismail is a popular Egyptian political figure who has been friendly with the Zawahiri brothers. (The banner in Zawahiri’s tweet includes a small image that asks: “Where was Abu Ismail before the revolution?”)

In October, an Egyptian propaganda outfit named Al Faroq Media released a video showcasing Mohammed al Zawahiri’s role in sparking the 9/11 Cairo protest. The video was first translated by the SITE Intelligence Group and can be viewed in full at the beginning of this article.

Al Faroq Media is not an official al Qaeda propaganda arm, but it is openly pro-al Qaeda. The group regularly promotes Mohammed al Zawahiri’s work on its Facebook page and other outlets. In addition to Zawahiri, three other prominent al Qaeda-linked jihadists were featured in the Al Faroq video. Together, they helped incite the protest-turned-riot in Cairo and turn it into a pro-al Qaeda affair.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers