WASHINGTON – Cairo has arrested the alleged leader of an Egyptian terrorist network whose members are suspected of taking part in the September attack
on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya,
the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Four American diplomats, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens,
were killed in the attack.
The suspect has been identified as Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, who Egypt
believes is the leader of a new wing of al-Qaeda.
US intelligence aided in his capture, the WSJ said.
According to the report, Ahmad's arrest "removes a man who Western counterterrorism officials consider one of the most menacing operatives to emerge in the region in the wake of the Arab Spring."
The arrest also indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned government is willing to pursue al Qaeda-associated terrorists, counterterrorism specialists told the newspaper.
Ahmad, who has a known affiliation Egyptian Islamic Jihad, was released from prison in Egypt in the wake of the revolution that swept the country last year.
Authorities believe that since his release in March 2011, Ahmad has been assembling a new terrorist network, training operatives in Libya, Yemen and Egypt.
US intelligence had been tracking Ahmad for several months prior to his arrest, since he petitioned al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri
to establish a new al-Qaeda affiliate in Egypt.
US al-Qaeda specialist Seth Jones said that Ahmad's capture is "strategically important" to the US because his network's alleged involvement in the Benghazi attacks indicates that his reach extended broadly into North Africa.
Meanwhile, it was reported that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
will testify on a report expected to be released next week on the deadly attack in Benghazi.
Scene of Benghazi attack (Photo: Reuters)
"I have just received confirmation from Secretary Clinton's office that the secretary of state will appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss, in an open hearing, the findings and the recommendations in the report," Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) said in a statement.
Ros-Lehtinen is chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, which has already held several hearings and classified briefings on the attack.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for its flawed early public explanations of the attack, and then for shifting explanations of why talking points given to US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
were changed to delete a reference to al-Qaeda.
Ros-Lehtinen said she expected an accountability review board
convened by the State Department to release a report on the attack sometime next week.
The review board, led by veteran diplomatic heavyweight Thomas Pickering, is expected to consider whether enough attention was given to potential threats and how Washington responded to security requests from US diplomats in Libya.
Ros-Lehtinen said she wanted to hear from Clinton about steps the State Department has taken to deal with problems in the "security of our posts, threat assessments, host government responsibilities and coordination with other US security agencies."
The committee's press release did not give a date for the hearing with Clinton, but said it expected it to happen "soon after" the review board's report is released.