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Who were the Benghazi attackers?

They were members of various anti-American jihadi groups based in and around Benghazi, according to the CIA, possibly including ringleader is Ahmed Abu Khattala.

FILE - This Oct. 2, 2017, file courtroom sketch depicts Ahmed Abu Khattala listening to a interpreter through earphones during the opening statement by assistant U.S. attorney John Crabb, second from left, at federal court in Washington, in the trial presided by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper. Defense attorney Jeffery Robinson, sits behind Crabb in a light blue suit and Michelle Peterson, also a member of the defense team, is at far right. A federal jury has found a suspected Libyan militant not guilty of the most serious charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Jurors on Nov. 28, 2017, convicted Ahmed Abu Khattala of terrorism-related charges but acquitted him of murder. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)
This Oct. 2, 2017, file courtroom sketch depicts Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala listening to a interpreter through earphones during the opening statement by assistant U.S. attorney John Crabb, second from left, at federal court in Washington
AP Images/Dana Verkouteren

Members of various anti-American jihadi groups based in and around Benghazi, according to CIA intelligence. One possible ringleader is Ahmed Abu Khattala, a deeply violent militia leader with ties to more radical Benghazi organizations. Khattala denies culpability for the attack, he’s been indicted by a federal jury on charges of helping plan and organize the attack. Since no one group is claiming responsibility, it’s hard to know for sure what the motivation for the attack was beyond a general jihadi objective of killing Americans.

There’s no real evidence as yet that any of these groups planned the attack in advance — in other words, it appears to have been largely spontaneous. In tactical terms, the initial attack on the mission wasn’t that complicated — a bunch of guys with easy access to light weapons hit a poorly guarded American target.

The US intelligence community now believes the attack was primarily an alliance of opportunity between some militants, rather than a pre-planned offensive. “The nature of the attacks suggested they did not involve significant pre-planning,” then-acting CIA Director Michael Morell wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein on January 4th, 2013, summing up the consensus among US intel agencies.