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Clinton: No sign that Stevens believed he was on an al Qaeda hit list

Christopher J. Stevens (PHOTO: CNN)

Christopher J. Stevens (PHOTO: CNN)

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday she has “absolutely no information or reason to believe there is any basis” to suggest that U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens believed he was on an al Qaeda hit list.

The remark came after a source familiar with his thinking told CNN that in the months leading up to his death, Stevens worried about constant security threats in Benghazi and mentioned that his name was on an al Qaeda hit list.

Stevens spoke about a rise in Islamic extremism and al Qaeda’s growing presence in Libya, the source said.

The White House, for the first time Thursday, declared the attack that killed Stevens and three other people a terrorist attack.

“It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters on Air Force One.

On Wednesday, Matthew Olsen, director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, gave a similar statement.

“I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” Olsen said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.

Stevens and three other Americans were killed September 11 during a large protest at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Demonstrators were angry about a film made in the United States that mocked the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

Sources tracking militant Islamist groups in the region said that a pro-al Qaeda group was the chief suspect and that the attack appeared to have been planned. The attackers used the protest as a diversion, the sources said.

At a memorial service Thursday in Libya, Mohamed al-Magariaf, president of Libya’s General National Congress, expressed sorrow for the deaths of the four who were working “for the sake of Libya.”

Libyan and U.S. officials attended the service in Tripoli for Stevens, computer expert Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Stevens “helped Libya in its darkest hours,” al-Magariaf said.

“He worked tirelessly as a representative of the United States of America.”

The U.S. national anthem played at the ceremony.

Al-Magariaf vowed the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Libya has taken steps to arrest those responsible for the consulate attack, bringing in dozens for questioning over the weekend, Libyan officials have said.

The exact number of arrests was unclear. One Libyan official said those arrested included suspects from Mali and Algeria as well as al Qaeda sympathizers.

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