The anti-Islam film trailer that the White House has repeatedly blamed for sparking unrest in the Middle East had nothing to do with the attack that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, that nation's president said in a television interview.
Libyan President Mohamed Magarief said the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, which also resulted in the deaths of three other Americans, was more likely pegged to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"Reaction should have been, if it was genuine, should have been six months earlier. So it was postponed until the 11th of September," Magarief told NBC’s Ann Curry in the exclusive interview. "They chose this date, 11th of September to carry a certain message."
President Obama and White House staffers have sent mixed signals about what triggered the siege on the unprotected U.S. consulate in the troubled Libyan city, with Obama continuing to blame the film trailer even as evidence mounts to the contrary.
Magarief noted that there were no protesters at the consulate prior to the attack, and that the incident was more of a clearly coordinated assault than a demonstration run amok. He noted the attackers used rocket-propelled grenades on the consulate and then fired mortars at a safe house where Stevens had fled.
In addition to Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs and security personnel Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.
"It's a pre-planned act of terrorism," Magarief said, concluding that the trailer for a purported film called “Innocence of Muslims” had "nothing to do with this attack." The trailer had been on the Internet since July, but no full-length film has emerged.
Magarief conceded that Libyans took part in the attack, but said "these Libyans do not represent the Libyan people or Libyan population in any sense of the word."
Magarief, who called Stevens a “humble and very unique individual,” said the nation is in debt to the U.S. for helping to oust ruthless dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
"We consider the United States as a friend, not only a friend, a strong friend, who stood with us in our moment of need," he said.