Have U.S. officials since concluded that his network wasn’t involved, as the Times and many others had reported? And if that were the case, wouldn’t Kirkpatrick have reported that? A U.S. official familiar with the intelligence on Benghazi tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that there has been no change. U.S. intelligence officials continue to believe Jamal’s network was involved.
Why was Jamal left out of this latest Times piece? That’s unclear. But we do know that including him would have undermined one of the piece’s central claims – that there was no evidence of any Benghazi role for either al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups.
As Joscelyn writes:
Jamal was trained by al Qaeda in the late 1980s, and has been loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri since at least the 1990s. He served as a commander in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a terrorist group headed by Zawahiri that merged with bin Laden’s enterprise. Jamal left prison in 2011 and quickly got back to work.
The Egyptian press has published some of Jamal’s letters to Zawahiri. In the letters, which were written in 2011 and 2012, Jamal is extremely deferential to Zawahiri. Jamal heaps praise on Zawahiri, seeking the al Qaeda master’s guidance and additional support. Jamal even mentions that he attempted to visit Zawahiri in person, but failed to do so because of restrictions on his travel. So, Jamal writes, he sent an emissary instead.
Jamal’s letters read like status reports. He writes that he has received financing from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but requires additional funds to purchase more weaponry. Jamal also explains that he had formed “groups for us inside Sinai” and had established “an advanced base outside Egypt in Libya to take advantage of the conditions in Libya after the revolution.”
Jamal’s operations inside the Sinai and Libya included training camps. Some of the trainees from those camps took part in the Benghazi attack.
Since the New York Times and other press outlets first reported on the Jamal network’s involvement, both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations have designated Jamal and his subordinates as terrorists. Both the U.S. and UN designations tie Jamal’s network directly to al Qaeda.
The State Department, for instance, notes that Jamal “has developed connections with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), AQ senior leadership, and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leadership.” Jamal not only received funds from AQAP, but has also “used the AQAP network to smuggle fighters into training camps.”
While the State Department’s designation does not mention the Jamal network’s participation in the Benghazi attack, the UN’s designation does. The UN noted that both Jamal and members of his network are “[r]eported to be involved in the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, on 11 Sep. 2012.”
When Jamal was detained in Egypt, a U.S. intelligence official involved in the Benghazi investigation described his capture as “a big deal,” and investigators would later express frustration at their inability to interrogate Jamal to better understand the role his network played in the attacks.
U.S. officials also suspected other al Qaeda-affiliated groups. CNN reported that intelligence officials also believed jihadists from al Qaeda in Iraq also participated in the Benghazi assault.
And, as Joscelyn notes, U.S. intelligence officials told THE WEEKLY STANDARD last fall that Faraj al-Shibli, a Libyan who once served as a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden, participated in the Benghazi attacks and, in the days that followed, delivered to senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan intelligence taken from the U.S. compound after the attacks.