The Libyan militia group that the State Department hired to defend its embattled diplomatic mission in Benghazi had clear al-Qaida sympathies, and had prominently displayed the al-Qaida flag on a Facebook page for months before the deadly attack.

That organization, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, was paid by the U.S. government to provide security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. But there is no indication the Martyrs Brigade fulfilled its commitment to defend the mission on Sept. 11, when it came under attack.

The assault claimed the lives of four Americans: Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.

Several entries on the militia’s Facebook page openly profess sympathy for Ansar al-Sharia, the hardline Islamist extremist group widely blamed for the deadly attack on the mission. The U.S. State Department did not respond to a Newsmax request for an explanation as to why the February 17th Martyrs Brigade was hired to protect the mission.

On April 23, House Republicans released an interim progress report on its investigation into the Benghazi killings. It cited “numerous reports” that “the Brigade had extremist connections, and it had been implicated in the kidnapping of American citizens as well as in the threats against U.S. military assets.”

The report also stated that just a few days before Ambassador Stevens arrived in Benghazi, the Martyrs Brigade informed State Department officials they would no longer provide security as members of the mission, including Stevens, traveled through the city.

From June 2011 to July 2012, Eric Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer for Libya at the time, documented over 200 security threats and violent incidents threatening to U.S. personnel in Libya. Some 50 of those incidents occurred in Benghazi.

Yet despite those threats, repeated requests for additional security from the mission went unheeded by the State Department, for reasons that remain unclear.

But perhaps the biggest question is why the State Department would hire a group that openly displayed its admiration for al-Qaida, and ask it to participate in the defense of its diplomatic mission.

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