US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday linked the escalating presence of terrorist groups in the North African country of Mali to the attack in Libya that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, DPA reported.
Speaking at a UN meeting on the Sahel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Clinton said that the rebellion in northern Mali must be ended with a negotiated political settlement. She said the ongoing rebellion in Mali feeds the "rising threat from violent extremism" in the region.
She identified al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as a chief actor that has launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighbouring countries.
"They are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi," she said.
She said the US was stepping up its counterterrorism efforts "across the Maghreb and Sahel" while building partnerships with the Libyan government and other countries to help them counter the growing threat.
Stevens and three other US officials were killed on September 11 in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The White House has come increasingly under fire from opposition Republicans who are dissatisfied it took the government until late last week to refer to the attack as a "terrorist" incident.
Private analysts, elected officials and the Libyan government have said the attack, which used mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, was not only terrorist in nature but also planned.
The Obama administration has also been cautious about saying the attack was planned.
Clinton said the US supports the formation of a comprehensive international effort on Mali to be led by a senior UN envoy.