Source: Slain ambassador Stevens said he was on al Qaeda list
By Ed Payne
(CNN) — In the months leading up to his death, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, worried about what he called the never-ending security threats in Benghazi and mentioned his name was on an al Qaeda hit list, a source familiar with his thinking told CNN.
Stevens specifically mentioned a rise in Islamic extremism and al Qaeda’s growing presence in Libya, the source said.
American intelligence officials are investigating, but Matthew Olsen, the National Counterterrorism Center director, said Wednesday that it was unlikely that Stevens and his security team were killed by random protesters.
“I would say, yes, they were killed in course of terrorist attack on our embassy,” Olsen said at a Senate Homeland Security hearing.
Stevens and three other Americans were killed when protesters, angry over a film made in the United States that mocked the Muslim prophet Mohammed, attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Washington tried to distance itself from the uproar, making it clear that it did not sanction the film. But more than a week of protests have rippled from Morocco to Malaysia, spurring U.S. officials to increase security at diplomatic missions and demand other governments to take action.
On Thursday, Libyan and U.S. officials will attend a memorial service in Tripoli for the slain Americans.
Here are the latest key developments in the fallout from the anti-Islam film, and cartoons published in a French satirical magazine featuring a figure resembling Mohammed:
French magazine runs cartoons of Mohammed
The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo added to the fiery debate between freedom of expression and offensive provocation on Wednesday.
The magazine, which is known for outrageous humor, published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Mohammed.
Iranian students demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Tehran on Thursday, the semiofficial FARS news agency reported.
But so far, there has been no violence reported as a result of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
Still, France will close embassies and schools in about 20 countries on Friday, the main Muslim day of prayer, as a precaution, the French foreign ministry said Wednesday.
It is already boosting security in some locations, including its embassies, and police vehicles were parked outside the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo late Tuesday.
In the past, Muslims in many countries have taken to the streets after Friday prayers.
Any depiction of Islam’s prophet is considered blasphemy by many Muslims. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, with an estimated 4.7 million followers of the faith.
The Charlie Hebdo cartoons are not labeled Mohammed, but several, including one that appears to show a man’s naked rear end, could easily be interpreted as being depictions of Islam’s prophet.
On Thursday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said a group called the Syrian Association of Freedom filed a complaint against the magazine for inciting hatred. The magazine itself turned to the prosecutor’s office, asking for an inquiry after its website was hacked.
Meanwhile, the German satirical magazine, “Titanic,” will publish an issue lampooning Islamaphobia next week, with a depiction on its cover that could be interpreted as being the prophet Mohammed.
Staffer Martina Werner said the Titanic issue will take on film and politicians making political capital on Islamaphobia, with a cover from an old movie poster.
Asked if it is supposed to depict the prophet Mohammed, Werner answered: “Well, that lies in the eye of the beholder.”
Capitol Hill briefings
The White House will roll out some of its top officials Thursday to brief members of the House and Senate about the past week’s violent developments across the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, intelligence chief James Clapper and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be on hand for the briefing.
“Innocence of Muslims” was an obscure Internet video until September 11, when rioters, seizing on it, breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Protesters also attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The film mocks Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
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.
In recent days, protests against the film have been on the wane, but thousands turned out for a demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, waving Hezbollah flags and yelling, “America is an enemy of God.” The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
On Thursday, Iranian demonstrators gathered in Tehran’s Palestinian Square to protest the film, shouting slogans against the United States and Israel and “those who insulted the holy prophet,” said the state-run Iranian news agency IRNA.
Rushdie bounty raised
In the midst of the unrest, an Iranian imam in a little-known organization has raised the bounty on British novelist Salmon Rushdie to $3.3 million — a half a million dollar increase.
“The death sentence issued against Salman Rushdi was meant to dry the roots of anti-Islamic plots, and now by carrying out that sentence the sequence of these anti-Islamic plots could be uprooted and these days are the best time to do that,” Hojatoleslam Hassan Sanei said, according to iran’s Mehr News Agency.
Rushdie has effectively been under an Islamic death sentence since 1989 when Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini first issued a fatwa, after Rushdie’s book, “The Satanic Verses,” was declared blasphemous and sparked protests throughout the Muslim world.
His new book “Joseph Anton: A Memoir” is an account of the firestorm surrounding the book and the death threats against him.
Sanei’s organization, the 15th of Khordad Foundation, made news when it first offered a bounty for Rushdie, but in recent years had fallen out of the public eye.
In Los Angeles, one of the actresses in “Innocence of Muslims” is suing the producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, claiming she is a victim of fraud, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of her likeness.
Cindy Lee Garcia filed a 17-page complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday, which also names YouTube, the video-sharing website on which the video is posted, and its parent company, Google.
Garcia says Google caused her irreparable harm by refusing to remove the content from their site.
Last week, Garcia told CNN she had been unaware that the filmmaker dubbed over the dialogue in the movie and inserted anti-Islam sentiments.
The producers’ representations that he “intended to make an ‘adventure film’ and that plaintiff would be depicted as a concerned mother, were false,” the suit claims.
“Defendant … made an anti-Islam propaganda film, in which plaintiff is falsely made to appear to accuse the founder of the Islamic religion of being a sexual deviant and child molester.”
“Ms. Garcia has lost her job, her privacy, and has suffered extreme distress over Nakoula’s acts,” according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, YouTube privately informed Garcia it will not voluntarily remove the content of the video. Attorney Armenta said that on Thursday, she will seek an emergency temporary restraining order against Nakoula and YouTube, asking that the content be removed permanently.
Garcia claims since the film’s backlash, she has received death threats and unable to visit her grandchildren out of fear that they will be harmed.
Calls to representatives of Nakoula were not immediately returned.
YouTube responded to CNN inquiries, saying it was reviewing the complaint.
CNN’s Ben Brumfield, Hamdi Alkhshali, Jethro Mullen, Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Amir Ahmed contributed to this report.
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