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Newly released testimony latest evidence Benghazi attacks premeditated

 

Transcripts of congressional testimony released by the House Armed Services committee are the latest in a growing body of evidence that the 2012 Benghazi attacks were premeditated.

Gen. Carter Ham, who at the time led the military's Africa command, known as Africom, told Congress in April the terrorists who attacked the CIA annex, during the third wave of the terrorist assault, had professional training.

"Given the precision of the attack, it was a well-trained mortar crew," Ham said, adding the mortar strike showed "a degree of sophistication and military training that is relatively unusual and certainly, I think, indicates that this was not a pickup team."

According to the transcripts released Wednesday, Ham also testified that the eight-hour gap between the consulate attack at 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2012 and the mortar strike a mile away on the CIA base in the early morning hours of Sept. 12 was significant, suggesting different perpetrators were involved.

"I think it's reasonable," Ham testified, "that a team came from outside of Benghazi."

The recent indictment of Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah links him to both the consulate attack, and the precision mortar strike eight hours later. But the Justice Department offered few specifics about his alleged role and did not say he was part of the firing team.

Despite the new testimony, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, doubled down on the department’s characterization of the attack.

"We've been pretty clear, or we've stated many times and very consistently … that we believe it was an opportunistic attack on our mission that did not involve significant preplanning," she said.

But four retired military and CIA officers, all with extensive experience with mortars, strongly disagreed.

In most cases, mortar crews can't see the target, and rely on complex math calculations for distance, direction and altitude. In Benghazi, five mortars rained down on the annex in under a minute. The first two missed, but the next three were direct hits.Ham testified the mortar crew likely used a spotter to recalibrate.

"This was the one piece of evidence that convinces me and certainly convinces others with experience with mortar attacks that this was preplanned, well laid out, well thought out, and reasonably well-executed," said retired Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, a Fox News military analyst.

"There was no happenstance luck there. They knew exactly how far it was from their mortar round to the target."

As Fox was first to report, in December 2012, the accuracy of the mortar strike was the trigger for the CIA's chief of base to shut down operations and the decision to evacuate the agency team was immediately known to senior leadership at the agency and State Department.

Yet, some lawmakers say then-CIA Director David Petraeus and former acting director Michael Morell played down the significance of the strike and the preparation needed.

In her book "Hard Choices,"then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued to suggest an anti-Islam video played a role.

"It is equally inaccurate to state that every single one of (the attackers) was influenced by this hateful video,”Clinton wrote. “It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were."

 

 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.