One of the main suspects in the attack on U.S. consulate in Libya recently sat down for drinks with the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick and trolled the Obama administration hard with his conflicting version of what went down during the attacks.
Ahmed Abu Khattala is a suspected member of Ansar al-Shariah, and a suspected leader of the September 11 attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. He sipped mango juice while being interviewed by Kirkpatrick on the patio of a Libyan hotel for two hours. His version of events does not match up with the administration's, to say the least:
Mr. Abu Khattala, 41, wearing a red fez and sandals, added his own spin. Contradicting the accounts of many witnesses and the most recent account of the Obama administration, he contended that the attack had grown out of a peaceful protest against a video made in the United States that mocked the Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
He also said that guards inside the compound — Libyan or American, he was not sure — had shot first at the demonstrators, provoking them. And he asserted, without providing evidence, that the attackers had found weapons, including explosives and guns mounted with silencers, inside the American compound.
Just about everything Abu Khattala says in the interview should be taken with a (huge) grain of salt. He attacked the Libyan government for being useless, and the American government for turning the attack into a campaign issue. He says he wasn't part of the attack at all. Witnesses say he was directing fighters. He says he got there as the gunfire was starting, and that he tried to help direct traffic. Maybe that's how witnesses were confused. Ever the good citizen, he left at the first sign of trouble, but his overwhelming sense of duty brought him back to the scene. He tried to enter the building only to rescue Libyan security forces that were trapped inside. But, and this is the biggest sign Abu Khattala is massaging the truth, he said when he entered the building he did not notice anything burning.
This is the consulate on the night of the attack (per Reuters):
There was lots of fire.
Despite multiple reports pointing to Abu Khattala as the leader of Ansar al-Shariah, he claims he's not affiliated with them. He's part of a separate group, Abu Obaida ibn al-Jarrah, which might explain why he's not surrounded by Libyan government forces with the rest of the al-Shariah members. He doesn't plan to go into hiding, either, despite word the Obama administration is getting their ducks in a row to go after a list of suspects.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.