Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, said she sees “no evidence or no assessment” that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was preplanned.
Feinstein, a California Democrat, spoke today on CNN after the committee was briefed for several hours by Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus. The Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. mission that killed four Americans may have begun as a spontaneous protest, which some in the crowd exploited to escalate the violence, she said.
“There was a protest, and it could well be that quickly some two dozen people took that as an opportunity to attack,” she said.
It was a reversal for Feinstein, who a day earlier was among lawmakers saying that militant groups such as al-Qaeda may have engaged in a premeditated attack that ended in the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The attack may have been preplanned because “the weapons were somewhat sophisticated, and they blew a hole in the building and started a big fire,” Feinstein said yesterday.
Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House intelligence committee, hasn’t changed his assessment that militants with ties to al-Qaeda may have preplanned the attack, Susan Phalen, a spokesman for Rogers said today in a phone interview.
“This wasn’t a group of individuals who ran down to the garage and picked up a few AK-47s and showed up and started shooting at the consulate,” Rogers, a former FBI agent, told reporters earlier today in Washington. “This was clearly a planned, coordinated event that took place on 9/11. And as an old FBI guy, you don’t believe in too many coincidences, let alone that many coincidences all in the same day.”
Demonstrators outside the Benghazi consulate were protesting an anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube. The video, which ridicules the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, also has sparked protests and clashes in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.
Protests spread for a third day today. In Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, assailants breached the U.S. embassy’s security perimeter and set two cars on fire as security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd, according to Yousef Al-Ahjan, one of the demonstrators. One protester was killed and five injured, Al Arabiya television reported.
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