WASHINGTON D.C. – (Reuters) – In the months before the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies warned the White House and State Department repeatedly that the region was becoming an increasingly dangerous vortex for jihadist groups loosely linked or sympathetic to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.
Despite those warnings, and bold public displays by Islamist militants around Benghazi, embassies in the region were advised to project a sense of calm and normalcy in the run-up to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
So brazen was the Islamist presence in the Benghazi area that militants convened what they billed as the “First Annual Conference of Supporters of Shariah (Islamic law)” in the city in early June, promoting the event on Islamist websites.
Pictures from the conference posted on various Internet forums featured convoys flying al Qaeda banners, said Josh Lefkowitz of Flashpoint-Intel.com, a firm that monitors militant websites. Video clips showed vehicles with mounted artillery pieces, he added