A mysterious Libyan ship — reportedly carrying weapons and bound for Syrian rebels — may have some link to the Sept. 11 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Fox News has learned.
Through shipping records, Fox News has confirmed that the Libyan-flagged vessel Al Entisar, which means “The Victory,” was received in the Turkish port of Iskenderun — 35 miles from the Syrian border — on Sept. 6, just five days before Ambassador Chris Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed during an extended assault by more than 100 Islamist militants.
On the night of Sept. 11, in what would become his last known public meeting, Stevens met with the Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and escorted him out of the consulate front gate one hour before the assault began at approximately 9:35 p.m. local time.
Although what was discussed at the meeting is not public, a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi to negotiate a weapons transfer, an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists. And although the negotiation said to have taken place may have had nothing to do with the attack on the consulate later that night or the Libyan mystery ship, it could explain why Stevens was travelling in such a volatile region on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
When asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman dismissed the idea, saying Stevens was there for diplomatic meetings, and to attend the opening of a cultural center.
A congressional source also cautioned against drawing premature conclusions about the consulate attack and the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria via Turkey — noting they may in fact be two separate and distinct events. But the source acknowledged the timing and the meeting between the Turkish diplomat and Stevens was “unusual.”
According to an initial Sept. 14 report by the Times of London, Al Entisar was carrying 400 tons of cargo. Some of it was humanitarian, but also reportedly weapons, described by the report as the largest consignment of weapons headed for Syria’s rebels on the frontlines.
“This is the Libyan ship … which is basically carrying weapons that are found in Libya,” said Walid Phares, a Fox News Middle East and terrorism analyst. “So the ship came all the way up to Iskenderun in Turkey. Now from the information that is available, there was aid material, but there were also weapons, a lot of weapons.”
The cargo reportedly included surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, RPG’s and Russian-designed shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPADS.
The ship’s Libyan captain told the Times of London that “I can only talk about the medicine and humanitarian aid” for the Syrian rebels. It was reported there was a fight about the weapons and who got what “between the free Syrian Army and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“The point is that both of these weapons systems are extremely accurate and very simple to use,” Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt explained. He said the passage of weapons from Libya to Syria would escalate the conflict. “With a short amount of instruction, you’ve got somebody capable of taking down any, any aircraft. Anywhere in the world.”