Officials said the military and State Department conducted a series of drills to ensure rapid response to any Al Qaida attack on U.S. facilities in North Africa. They said the exercises stemmed from the lessons learned from the Ansar Al Sharia attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012, in which four people including ambassador Chris Stevens, was killed.
“We think we have developed an improved way to execute the indications and warnings with our interagency partners to ensure that we can move and reposition closer,” U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. David Rodriguez said.
In a briefing on Dec. 3, Rodriguez reviewed training for a rapid-response team comprised of the U.S. Marine Corps. The general said several so-called FAST teams from the Marines and Special Operations Command were on alert in NATO facilities in southern Europe as well as Djibouti.
“We also have force-sharing agreements with European Command to be able to be much more responsive and quicker,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the rapid-response teams were alerted three times based on warnings of an attack in Libya. He also said U.S. embassies in Libya, South Sudan and Tunisia were reinforced with additional Marines.
So far, one suspect in the 2012 attack in Benghazi was captured in Libya. On Dec. 4, a Turkish newspaper reported the arrest of the suspected Al Qaida chief in Libya, identified as Abdul Basset Azouz said to have entered southern Turkey with a fake passport.
“We continue to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in conjunction with the entire interagency and many international partners to continue to build the intelligence required to bring those people to justice,” Rodriguez said.
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