US denied access to terror suspect tied to Libya attacks, says GOP lawmaker

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News on Tuesday that government authorities in Tunisia have blocked U.S. efforts to question Ali ani al-Harzi. 

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GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other congressional Republicans have been quick to single out perceived mistakes in the Obama administration's handing of the attack and its aftermath. 

The White House has come under intense scrutiny for its changing accounts of the Sept. 11 attack, initially claiming the strike was the result of an anti-U.S. protest run amok. 

U.S. intelligence and defense officials later admitted the strike was a terrorist attack, but noted the raid was an opportunistic assault and not a coordinated or pre-planned attack by Islamic terror groups in the country. 

Al-Harzi, who has been identified as a key suspect in the consulate raid in Benghazi, Libya, was handed over to Tunis shortly after his arrest in Turkey, the Daily Beast reported on Wednesday. 

U.S. intelligence officials, along with members of the FBI, are in negotiations with the Tunisian government to gain access to al-Harzi or have the suspect transferred to the American detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. 

So far, both sides have yet to reach an agreement on the suspect's fate, according to the Daily Beast. 

An alleged member of al Qaeda's North African cell, al-Harzi was temporarily detained by Turkish officials before being extradited to Tunisia, where he is now awaiting trial on terrorism charges. 

Al-Hazri was reportedly en route to Syria, likely to participate in the ongoing civil war between anti-government rebels looking to overthrow longtime President Bashar Assad. 

The Tunisian man was one of several individuals identified in a surveillance video of the consulate attack in Benghazi, which ended with four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. 

Ahmed Abu Khattala, head of the Islamic Libyan militia Ansar al-Sharia, which initially claimed responsibility for the attack, was also seen at the site of the consulate attack. Khattala admitted to Reuters last Thursday he was at the Benghazi site, but denied playing any role in the attack. 

Khatalla and al-Hazri are two of a handful of suspected Islamic militants U.S. military and intelligence are looking into regarding the consulate raid. 

American special operations forces have already been sent to Libya and neighboring countries, collecting intelligence on terror cells tied to the Sept. 11 strike. 

That work is part of an alleged White House counterstrike plan being drafted to target those responsible for the assault. 

The Pentagon's elite Joint Special Operations Command, in conjunction with the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies, is assembling "target packages" on suspected militants associated with the attack.

Counterstrike operations could run the gamut from armed drone strikes to covert kill or capture raids similar to the Osama bin Laden mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that ended with the al Qaeda leader's death.


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