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Benghazi was "terrorist attack", says U.S. official

  • The assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week in which four Americans were killed has been described as a "terrorist attack" that may be connected to al Qaeda, a top U.S. counterterrorism official told Congress on Wednesday.

    Protestors stormed the consulate on September 11, the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the United States. The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, along with three other Americans died in the attack.

    "They were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy," Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in response to a question at a Senate hearing.

    Olsen added investigations as to whether the attack was planned for September 11 were under way. Information gathered so far indicates it was "an opportunistic attack".

    The debate over whether or not the attack was planned has intensified between the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers, who believe it bears the hallmarks of a premeditated assault.

    Senior Libyan officials have said the attack was planned in advance.

    Olsen told lawmakers that authorities were looking into who was responsible for the attack.

    "As well, we are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates, particularly Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," he said.