Tag: benghazi

“Day of Rage” on the Day of Love: The Arab Spring Two Years On

Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year most associated with chocolates and red roses is being marked by bird shot and blood on the streets of Bahrain. Clashes between civilians and security personnel this morning have left at least one civilian dead, adding to the toll of at least 55 deaths since the revolution began two years ago. Since a “Day of Rage” was launched in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, demonstrations against the regime have been a common occurrence.

Similar “Days of Rage” also kick started the revolutions in Egypt and Libya in early 2011. Protesters in Egypt took to the streets in earnest on January 25. In Libya, the demonstrations began in full on February 17, with small-scale protests starting two days earlier.

In the two years since then, the anniversaries have served as flashpoints for public gatherings in each of these countries. Whether these gatherings proved to be celebratory or demonstrative in nature depended, and continues to depend, on the relative success of the revolution as judged by the people.

In the case of Egypt, while former President Hosni Mubarak is out of power and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is no longer running the show, the now Muslim Brotherhood-led government has caused consternation among many in the populace. Protests against the regime on January 25, 2013 led to clashes with security forces. At least seven people were killed in the violence. While demonstrations were held last year, this year’s violence on the anniversary outpaces that witnessed in 2011.

In Bahrain, the monarch demonstrators sought to topple in 2011 remains on the throne. King Hammad bin Isa Al Khalifa has had little patience for protest, which has been best demonstrated by the constant use of police force to break up demonstrations against his regime. Such was the case a year ago and such is the case today. Given the life of this latent revolution, this was not unexpected.

Crucial Month for Libya?

The reality in Libya more closely reflects the situation in Egypt than it does in Bahrain. The first year anniversary of the uprising’s beginning was characterized by its peaceful nature. The mood was celebratory in the wake of the country’s success over former dictator Moammar Qaddafi. The victory was still fresh and optimism still high only four months after a once captive population beheld the corpse of their captor. The celebrations were for Libya, rather than against the government.

This year, however, there is more public pressure against entities hindering the realization of the Libyan revolution’s goals. People are calling for action to be taken against the militias, which, operating outside of the government’s purview, continue to wield considerable sway in the country. Calls for autonomy in eastern Libya’s Cyrenaica region have increased. The government has closed its borders with Tunisia and Egypt through February 18 and will man 1,400 checkpoints around the country through February 22.


The bottom line: there’s more of an edge to the anniversaries of the revolution in Libya this year than there was in 2011. Protests have been called for both February 15 and February 17 in the country. As in the case of both Egypt and Libya, this is not surprising. What should also not be surprising is more aggressive demonstrations in the days ahead in Libya as people gather to decry the failures of the revolution alongside those who bask in the now dated memory of a Libya recently freed of dictatorship.

What do you think?

Reminder: Join Recorded Future on February 19 for a webcast on monitoring web-based open source information. Special guest speaker is retired Navy Captain and maritime cyber analyst, Scott Phillpott. Register here.

Link Round Up and the Week Ahead

Our favorite stories, commentary, and visualizations from the past week. Post yours in the comments.

The Economics Behind China-Japan Dispute (The A List – Financial Times) -

“Neither Chinese nor Japanese leaders are well positioned to handle a prolonged confrontation given pressures to revive their respective economies. And politically, both sides cannot afford to be distracted at a time when Beijing is trying to complete a complicated once-in-a-decade leadership transition and Tokyo’s political scene is in disarray as it gears up for yet another election. Nor can either side afford to be seen as caving in to nationalistic pressures.”

The United States of ZeroAccess (F-Secure) -

“Monday’s post included a screenshot of the ZeroAccess botnet as visualized in Google Earth. Well, we’ve finished cleaning up the KML file which now includes 139,447 bot locations based on IP addresses associated with approximately 2,600 samples.”

Stop Playing Politics With The Benghazi Attack  (Washington Post) -

“Critics see in this a deliberate attempt by the administration to portray the Benghazi violence as a spontaneous response to the video, as opposed to a terrorist attack that was timed for Sept. 11 and possibly planned by al-Qaeda. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and three other Republicans have demanded in a letter that Ms. Rice explain how she “could characterize an attack on a U.S. consulate so inaccurately,” while a group of congressmen accused the administration of adopting “a pre-9/11 mind-set — treating an act of war solely as a criminal matter.”

Bibi’s Subtext: Israel Won’t Bomb Iran Before Spring (The Atlantic) -

“Without quite saying so, he has now backed off of the limb he had gotten himself out on. Whereas only weeks ago he was suggesting that Israel might bomb Iran before he finished his next sentence, the upshot of today’s speech was that Israel won’t bomb Iran before spring.”

The New World, Largely Same as the Old One (Saideman’s Semi-Spew) -

“My friends on twitter got a bit outraged yesterday over this NYT spec piece on the possible new maps in the future after some countries blow up or join together or both. When I first glanced it, I was pretty dismissive since it runs through eleven hunks of territory quickly, making quick guesses about which ones will break apart and which ones will join together… I can make some general comments and then skip through the cases briefly. First, secession is damned hard–countries resist losing pieces of themselves (see Monica Toft’s work). There are many lessons to draw from South Sudan, but one of them is–it takes decades. Six of them or so. And South Sudan is hardly swell today.”

Timeline of Geopolitical Events Next Week


What else is on your radar for the upcoming week? Let us know in the comments.

Abu Sufian bin Qumu – A Familiar Fighter

In testimony before the US Senate on September 19th, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen described the September 12th assault on the US Consulate as a “terrorist attack.” Although it remains to be seen if the Libyan Ansar al-Sharia (aka Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi aka ASB) is responsible, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, has been cited as the leader of the organization by several outlets and analysts.

Beyond his Guantanamo file, we see that Bin Qumu is a familiar fighter — from the Libyan Army in the 80′s to Afghanistan and Sudan in the 90′s, back to Libya, to Afghanistan, and finally back to eastern Libya. Looking at this more recent history, particularly after the release from Guantanamo Bay, bin Qumu has been the focus of periodic press attention for his role as a returned fighter.

Recent Timeline for bin Qumu

In April 2011, the New York Times reported that bin Qumu had been fighting to overthrow Qaddafi, ostensibly with American support. A little over a year later, in a June 2012 profile, the paper describes his leadership of a militia in eastern Libya as an alternative vision for the country.

The network of people, places, and organizations surrounding bin Qumu narrows the universe of known players and provides an overview of what is reported about his connections:

Network Map of bin Qumu – Last 24 Months

The network map is a clear visualization of bin Qumu’s story, from foreign Taliban fighter in Afghanistan to Guantanamo detainee to returned rebel in a tumultuous takedown of Gaddhafi to a militia leader with mysterious allegiances, and now, potential opportunistic terrorist.

Aliases and various spellings abound for Abu Sufian bin Qumu: Abu Suffiyan, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, Sofiane Ibrahim Gammu, Abu Sufian Ibrahim Hamuda bin Qumu. Recorded Future’s watchlist capability enables an analyst to quickly assemble and maintain a searchable list of aliases:

Building a Watchlist of Aliases

It is as yet unclear to what at extent — if at all — bin Qumu is involved with the attack, but in the coming days, he will continue to garner attention. With the open source corpus outlining his travels, statements, and actions, an analyst can quickly assemble a history, profile, and alias list to recognize novel information and to place into the context of extant knowledge.

Signs of Unrest in Lead Up to Attacks in Cairo and Benghazi

The recent tragic attack at the United States consulate in Benghazi and protests at U.S. embassies in Cairo and around the world were shocking in their targeting of American diplomats. Both cities were known to be volatile, but looking back there’s evidence that tensions were running particularly high in both Libya and Egypt prior to these disturbing events.

Cairo hasn’t completely settled since last year’s mass protests in Tahrir Square, and emerging policies of Mohamed Morsi’s government were inflaming the populace once again. During the two weeks before occupying the U.S. embassy there were a series of protests:

  • Anti-Syrian protests outside of mosques at the end of August.
  • Bahraini democracy activist barred from entry into Egypt.
  • And just two days before the embassy attack on September 9, hundreds protest a football match for the lack of justice over the death of 74 people at a match earlier this year.

The timeline embedded below shows events in Egypt (interactive view) reported prior to protests on September 11, 2012.

Egypt leading up to September 11 embassy protests

Libya lags Egypt in rebuilding its government and the environment, as evidenced by the below timeline, is unstable on a many fronts:

  • sectarian conflict over attacks on Sufi shrines.
  • Gaddafi loyalists in Egypt financing illegal immigrant trafficking.
  • major political protests in both Tripoli and Benghazi.

You can see these and more protests events in Libya (interactive view) taking place in the two weeks prior to the consulate attack.

Libya ahead of Attack in Benghazi

Did Killings of AQAP Operatives Precipitate Attacks on Embassies?

[Correction (September 13, 2012, 11:57am): It has been noted that there are two organizations named Ansar al-Sharia -- one is an arm of Al Qaeda in Yemen and the other is active in Benghazi. The Daily Beast has a thorough post disambiguating the two.]

As more details continue to emerge about the attacks on US embassies, one might wonder that if these strikes were planned, could they have been foreseen? Moreover, until a group takes responsibility, is it possible to identify potential attackers and leading indicators?

Analysis using Recorded Future indicates that attacks on embassies could be direct retaliation for American drone assassinations of Al Qaeda leadership. Although the attackers may not have targeted the US ambassador directly, use of the protests created a chaotic circumstance that lent itself to vulnerabilities and unpredictability in diplomatic protection.

Evaluating Potential Attackers

Some media reports have identified the perpetrators of the attack on the embassy in Benghazi as members of Ansar al-Sharia (جماعة أنصار الشريعة‎ in Arabic), an offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), mostly active in Yemen but has been operating in Libya recently. Here is a timeline of the past 12 months of Ansar al-Sharia:

Ansar Al-Sharia Timeline – Last 12 Months

Though much of the discussion about Ansar al-Sharia centers around Yemen, a connection emerges between US actions in Yemen to activity in Libya. On Monday, a US drone strike killed a senior AQAP leader in Yemen, Saad al-Shihri. In digging into this organization a bit more, there are strong linkages in the data between the Al Qaeda offshoot, its presence stretches beyond Yemen.

Network Map of Ansar al-Sharia

In using Recorded Future to quickly review the past several months of attacks in Benghazi, one event pops out: three months ago, CNN featured a story about an attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, with another organization, Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rehman Brigades, taking credit:

CNN Story on June 2012 Attack on Benghazi Embassy

As mentioned in the story, this group attacked the US embassy on the urging of Ayman al-Zawahiri, in retaliation for the killing of Abu Yahya al Libi, al Qaeda’s deputy commander in Libya. Furthermore, there was a significant political moment expected on September 12, 2012: Libya was holding a runoff election for prime minster. Disrupting this election could be a possible or additional motive of the attackers.

Though it is unclear if the attack on the embassy in Benghazi on September 11th is connected to the previous assault in June, it is difficult not to discern a pattern: both attacks happened after the assassination of an AQAP leader. Instead of retaliating in Yemen, however, where the targets had been hardened, perhaps the perpetrators determined it was easier to access American diplomats at softer targets in an ungoverned space such as Benghazi.

Emergence of An Al Qaeda Leader

Whichever group is responsible — and whether they eventually claim credit or not — it is clear that Al Qaeda had developed a strategy for building a foundation in Libya. In mapping AQ in Libya, a militant commander, Abdulbasit Azuz, appears as a key player:

Al Qaeda & Libya Network Map

The timeline of Azuz’s history shows that he was dispatched by al-Zawahiri from Pakistan to Libya in 2011 — and has been active for decades:

Azuz Historical Timeline



While we cannot definitely conclude that the attacks in Benghazi were planned, they were certainly preceded by previous attempts — and with two suspected organizations; it is difficult to ignore the cover provided by coinciding timing of protests in Cairo and political importance of de-stabilizing a nascent Libyan government. Either way, it is reasonable to expect increased drone activity in Yemen and Libya in attempt to thwart Al Qaeda’s operations.

We will continue to track these developments over the coming days and weeks.

Monitoring the Crises in Cairo and Benghazi

Protests and attacks yesterday aimed at U.S. diplomatic sites in Cairo and Benghazi, including the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, left political officials bracing for further anti-American protests across North Africa and the Middle East.

Monitor the Latest Developments

Selecting the links below displays a live feed from Recorded Future for each location that looks at the latest events in:

Identifying Future Events

In addition to monitoring current developments, it will be key to identify events set to take place in the near future, and below you’ll find what is planned for the rest of the week in Libya and Egypt.

Libya (click for live view)

Rest of the week in Libya – click for live view

Egypt (click for live view)

Rest of the week in Egypt- click for live view

Embassy and Consulate Protests

The timeline below shows forecast events over the next three days related to United States embassies or consulates. These events are not necessarily linked to location.

Forecast events related to US embassies

Planned Protests in US Diplomatic Locations

This live, interactive map shows planned protest events in North African and Middle East cities that appear to be most at risk based on American diplomatic sites in those locations.

Protests in MENA cities with US diplomatic site

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