A key figure in the security failures surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya is fighting alongside members of Ansar al Sharia, which is one of the terrorist groups responsible for the assault on the U.S. mission and annex that night.
Wissam Bin Hamid’s name has surfaced time and again in the investigation into the Benghazi attack. He admittedly met with American officials in Benghazi just days before the assault to discuss security, and he reportedly refused to provide assistance once the attack was underway. The post-revolution Libyan government also worked with Bin Hamid and his Libya Shield militia, which was supposedly one of the strongest “security” forces inside Benghazi.
But in recent days Bin Hamid has been pictured with Ansar al Sharia’s leader in Benghazi, as well as the group’s fighters. The pictures show Bin Hamid and Ansar al Sharia overrunning a Libyan special forces base and capturing a large amount of weaponry.
One of the pictures was posted by Ansar al Sharia on its official Twitter feed on July 22. The accompanying text reads, “The mujahid Sheikh Mohammed al Zahawi accompanied by the battlefield commander Wissam Bin Hamid - May Allah protect them both - during the course of their leadership of the invasion.” Mohammed al Zahawi is the head of Ansar al Sharia.
The pictures can be seen at the end of this article.
A declassified State Department cable dated September 11, 2012 recounts a meeting between Bin Hamid and American officials that took place just two days prior, on September 9. The cable was released by the House Oversight Committee. Bin Hamid’s name is spelled “bin Ahmed” in the cable.
The cable says that Bin Hamid and one of his fellow militiamen “discussed the very fluid relationships and blurry lines they say define membership in Benghazi-based brigades,” as they were both “members of multiple brigades.” The pair claimed to “control” the chief of staff of Libya’s armed forces, Yousef Mangoush, adding that he “often provides the brigades direct stocks of weapons and ammunition.”
In their September 9 meeting with the Americans, Bin Hamid and his colleague portrayed themselves as indispensable when it came to providing security in eastern Libya. The duo also said that they supported the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party candidate for prime minister, and they “criticized” the U.S. for supporting National Forces Alliance (NFA) leader Mahmoud Jibril. Bin Hamid and his counterpart argued that their brigades would receive significant positions in the Libyan government should the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate win, giving them “tacit control of the armed forces.” But if Jibril won the prime minister’s seat, “they would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing.”
On October 1, 2012, the Washington Post reported on an interview with Bin Hamid in which he confirmed that, along with “two officials from another [Libyan] government-sanctioned militia,” he had “met with three U.S. officials posted in Benghazi three days before the attack.” (The cable says the meeting actually took place on September 9, 2012.)
“They wanted to know who was in control in Benghazi,” Bin Hamid recalled, according to the Post. “It was like an introductory meeting. They asked us what we needed to bring security to Benghazi, what the Americans could possibly bring to help.” According to Bin Hamid’s account, he told the Americans that Benghazi was comparatively safe.