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More arrests in U.S. Consulate attack, Libyan official says

Story highlights

  • The president of Libya's parliament says around 50 people are arrested
  • Another senior official disputes that number and says 50 have been questioned
  • There are differing views on whether the Tuesday attack was planned

Libyan authorities have made more arrests in connection with the attack on the U.S. Consulate that left the U.S. ambassador and three others dead, the president of Libya's parliament said Sunday.

Mohamed al-Magariaf, the head of Libya's General National Congress, said around 50 people have been arrested, though another senior government official said the number was not that high.

The official said as many as 50 people have been brought in for questioning but not all of them were arrested. They were people who were at a protest outside the consulate but there was no indication yet that they took part in the violence, he said.

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Al-Magariaf told CBS' "Face the Nation" that a "few" of those arrested are foreigners, some of them from Mali and Algeria. The others are affiliated with al Qaeda or are sympathizers, he said.

Al-Magariaf said he has "no doubt" the fatal attack was planned and not a result of the anti-American demonstrations that began that day -- the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

"Definitely it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival," he said.

The senior Libyan government official said there is no evidence yet that the attack was planned or that al Qaeda was involved.

U.S. officials believe extremists carried out the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but that they did it after a spontaneous protest began outside the building, said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice told "Face the Nation."

Zakaria: Protests don't tell the whole story

The FBI is investigating the attack but has yet to enter the country because of volatility there. In the meantime, FBI agents are interviewing witnesses outside Libya, federal law enforcement officials said.

The United States has, however, deployed warships and surveillance drones in its hunt for the killers, and a contingent of 50 Marines has arrived to boost the security of Americans in Libya.

Militants stormed the consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The protest in front of the consulate was over a film, made in the United States, that mocks the Prophet Mohammed.

Egypt's Prime Minister: Some were paid to protest

Anti-Islam filmmaker questioned

Violence eases, but tensions remain high

      Attacks on U.S. missions

    • A testy exchange erupted between Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey during the latter's testimony about September's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
    • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took on Republican congressional critics of her department's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack in Libya.
    • Children in Benghazi hold up placards reading "No to terrorism" (R) and "yes for stability and security" on January 15.

      Bilal Bettamer wants to save Benghazi from those he calls "extremely dangerous people." But his campaign against the criminal and extremist groups that plague the city has put his life at risk.
    • Protesters near the US Embassy in Cairo.

      Was the attack on the Libyan U.S. Consulate the result of a mob gone awry, a planned terror attack or a combination of the two?
    • Image #: 19358881    Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, smiles at his home in Tripoli June 28, 2012. Stevens and three embassy staff were killed late on September 11, 2012, as they rushed away from a consulate building in Benghazi, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. Picture taken June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST OBITUARY)       REUTERS /ESAM OMRAN AL-FETORI /LANDOV

      Three days before the deadly attack in Benghazi, a local security official says he warned U.S. diplomats about deteriorating security.
    • For the latest news on developments in the Middle East and North Africa in Arabic.