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Ansar al Sharia video features jihadist once thought to be US ally in Benghazi

Ansar al Sharia Libya, the jihadist group notorious for its role in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, has released a 42-minute video highlighting its recent operations. The video, titled "Enter Upon Them By The Gate," focuses on Ansar al Sharia's opposition to General Khalifa Haftar's forces. Haftar is a former Libyan general who has opposed the jihadists' advances in eastern Libya.

In the video, Ansar al Sharia's leaders again emphasize their goal of establishing Islamic governance inside Benghazi.

And the production also features Wissam Bin Hamid, a jihadist leader US officials once considered an ally in post-Muammar Qaddafi Libya.

Bin Hamid is shown twice in the video.

A photo of Bin Hamid is first displayed during Ansar al Sharia's discussion of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council [BRSC], which is a coalition of several Islamist and jihadist factions currently fighting against Haftar and his allies. Ansar al Sharia is likely the dominant organization in the BRSC.

Bin Hamid is shown sitting in front of the black flag first popularized by the Islamic State of Iraq [ISI], an al Qaeda branch that evolved into Abu Bakr al Baghdadi's Islamic State, which has been disowned by al Qaeda's general command. The ISI's flag was adopted by other jihadist groups long ago, including some that are openly loyal to al Qaeda. In its media productions, Ansar al Sharia typically uses an even simpler black banner similar to that flown by al Qaeda and its branches. See, for example, the upper right hand corner of the image of Bin Hamid below.

"The mujahideen in Benghazi announced the formation of the [BRSC], gathering together the words and uniting the ranks," a narrator says. "And it has combined a group of battalions, brigades, factions and jihadi groups from among those who had experience and history fighting the tyrant Qaddafi before and after the revolution."

Bin Hamid is one of the key leaders in this coalition, according to Ansar al Sharia. Indeed, the group has previously published photos of Bin Hamid fighting alongside other jihadists, including Ansar al Sharia's emir, Mohammed al Zahawi.

After halting Haftar's offensive, Ansar al Sharia's narrator says in the new video, the "leadership of the BRSC met and drew up precise plans for a military operation aiming to liberate the city of Benghazi" from Haftar's forces. "And so the efforts have united, and the soldiers assembled; the tasks have been allotted, and the operations distributed."

Bin Hamid is shown a second time during footage celebrating the fall of Camp Thunderbolt in July. The base was controlled by special forces loyal to Haftar until the jihadists overran it in short order. [See LWJ report, Ansar al Sharia, allies seize special forces base in Benghazi.]

Bin Hamid praises Allah for the jihadists' successes at Camp Thunderbolt, saying it was a "base of evil which has corrupted the country and harmed the worshipers [i.e. Muslims]."

"And we will not leave it, with Allah's permission," Bin Hamid continues, "until Allah's law [sharia] is established."

Zahawi, Ansar al Sharia's leader, echoes Bin Hamid's argument moments later. As can be seen in the image below, Zahawi is standing to Bin Hamid's left as he speaks at Camp Thunderbolt.

In "the name of the fighters of the BRSC, and in the name of all free young men in Benghazi: we will fight and struggle until the law of Allah [sharia] is ruled in this land," Zahawi says.

The close alliance between Zahawi and Bin Hamid, who are both fighting to implement a harsh version of sharia law, underscores the degree to which American officials misjudged their allies in Libya.

Bin Hamid was supposed to be a key guarantor of security in eastern Libya, but his name has surfaced time and again in the investigation into the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack. He admittedly met with American officials in Benghazi just days before the assault to discuss security. Once the assault was underway, however, Bin Hamid refused to provide assistance. Even a call from a personal friend of Ambassador Christopher Stevens did not move Bin Hamid to act.

While Bin Hamid claims to have stood idly by as the US compound was ransacked and four Americans were killed, Zahawi's fighters joined known al Qaeda branches in overrunning the US Mission and Annex.

Today, Bin Hamid and Zahawi advertise their alliance in Ansar al Sharia's videos.

[Source: By Thomas Joscelyn and Oren Adaki, The Long War Journal, 11Oct14]

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