Editor’s note: Noman Benotman is president of Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism group in London. He is a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist organization that fought against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in the 1990s. After resigning from L.I.F.G. in 2002, he became a prominent critic of jihadist and Islamist violence.

(CNN) — The Obama administration may very well be right that the attack in Benghazi which claimed the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials was part of a pre-planned terrorist operation. It would have happened sooner or later regardless of any protests against an obscure anti-Islam film made in America.

The attack apparently occurred because in recent days, the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri posted a video online calling on Libyans to avenge the killing of al-Qaeda’s second in command, Abu Yahya al-Libi.

According to our own sources at Quilliam Foundation, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants prepared for a military assault. It is rare, for example, that an RPG7 — an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher — would be present at a civilian protest. The attack against the consulate had two waves. The first attack led to U.S. officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against U.S. officials after they were kept at a secure location.

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