From the authors of “Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy” by Sarah Adams and Dave “Boon” Benton

The Truth Unveiled

In the world of counterterrorism, where anonymity frequently obscures the true identities of our adversaries, we are here to unveil the truth. Today, the era of terrorists hiding in the shadows ends for those who carried out the mortar attack on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Annex in Benghazi, Libya, on September 12, 2012. Yes, we are here to reveal the identities of the ten-man mortar team – our enemies.

These ten terrorists were part of the Ali Hassan al-Jaber Cell, operating under the banner of the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade, a group that emerged as an offshoot of the 17 February Martyrs Brigade. Leading this organization was Mohammed al-Gharabi, who, at the time, served as al-Qa’ida’s Senior Commander for Benghazi. Gharabi had played a key role in the formation of 17 February, alongside co-founder Ismail al-Sallabi, who held the position of al-Qa’ida’s Deputy Senior Commander for Benghazi. 17 February was authorized by the Libyan Ministry of Interior to provide armed security at the U.S. Consulate (also known as the U.S. Mission) compound for the U.S. Department of State in 2012.

Terrorists Mohmmed al-Gharabi pictured on the left and Ismail al-Sallabi on the bottom right.

The Mastermind

As background, the attack on our CIA Annex was masterminded by the terrorist Wissam bin Humaid, who, at the time, led Libya Shield One. In a meeting on September 9th, 2012, with the Principal Officer from the U.S. Consulate (just prior to Ambassador Stevens’ arrival in Benghazi), Gharabi and Wissam made it clear that they would no longer guarantee security for the American presence and its diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. In the aftermath of the attack, Wissam went on to join al-Qa’ida, eventually rising to the position of al-Qa’ida’s leader in Benghazi. Ironically, his life came to an end in December 2015 when he succumbed to a mortar attack executed by the Libyan National Army and the Emirati Air Force.

Wissam, an adversary of American influence in Benghazi, saw an opportunity in the crisis that unfolded on September 11, 2012. As al-Qa’ida terrorists and their local affiliates attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, attempting to kidnap our Ambassador, Wissam stood outside, watching the chaos. During this period of waiting, he received a phone call, presumably from Boka al-Oraibi, the Leader of Libya Shield Two, informing him of the imminent arrival of a rescue force of Americans from Tripoli, which would later be coined “Team Tripoli.” The prospect of more Americans descending upon Benghazi infuriated Wissam, and he loudly vowed to kill all of us Americans that night. His declaration was overheard by those in his vicinity.

Terrorists Wissam bin Humaid on the left and Boka al-Oraibi on the right.

Planning the Mortar Attack on the CIA Annex

Collaborating closely with Boka and ally Gharabi, Wissam meticulously orchestrated the timing of the mortar strike that would occur on the morning of September 12th. One of the crucial elements Wissam needed to control as he planned the attack on the CIA Annex was the need to delay Team Tripoli at Benghazi International Airport upon their arrival at 01:35 in the morning. This calculated maneuver aimed to ensure that all Americans were congregated inside the Annex simultaneously. It wasn’t until 04:45 when Wissam finally gave approval to a commander under Boka named Captain Fathi al-Obeidi to transport Team Tripoli to the CIA Annex. At 05:05, the Libya Shield motorcade, consisting of a dozen vehicles from the airport, arrived with Team Tripoli at the Annex. The militia members remained with their vehicles while their commander entered inside with Team Tripoli.

What unfolded next remains largely undisclosed. At 05:16, Wissam called the motorcade and ordered them to return to their headquarters immediately. A member of the motorcade informed Wissam that Captain al-Obeidi was still inside, and Wissam commanded him to abandon their positions and immediately return to their base without their Commander. On Annex surveillance footage, the militia was seen loading into their vehicles and quickly departing. Just one minute later, at 05:17, a mere twelve minutes after the arrival of Team Tripoli, a sudden and unprecedented attack unfolded from the western side of our Annex. This assault significantly diverged from the tactics employed during the preceding two attacks on the Annex. A hail of PKM machine gun fire, accompanied by a relentless barrage of rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attacks, ensued. Then, precision mortar strikes hit, with six mortars striking the facility, taking only 73 seconds in total.