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Terrorist groups in Libya tried to coalesce in month leading to consulate attack, officials say

Esam Omran Al-fetori / Reuters

An interior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 12.

Intelligence indicates that militant or terrorist groups were attempting to combine forces in the month preceding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

"There was a thread of intelligence that groups in that environment in eastern Libya were seeking to coalesce," Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a briefing to Pentagon reporters, adding that there was nothing specific in the intelligence that indicated an attack on the U.S. consulate was imminent. 

Dempsey said the intelligence was widely shared with all U.S. departments and agencies.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta added that the assault "clearly was a terrorist attack." Panetta said the investigation to pinpoint which terrorist groups were involved is ongoing.

Panetta and Dempsey also reported that the joint U.S./Afghan patrols that had been suspended following a spike in "insider attacks" on American forces have been resumed, and that most U.S. and NATO forces have returned to normal operations alongside Afghan soldiers and police.

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Panetta said the "insider attacks" were intended to undermine the trust built between U.S. and Afghan security forces.

Gen. Dempsey added: "The Taliban tried to split us apart and it won't work."

In an NBC News exclusive, Libya's President Mohammed Magarief tells NBC's Ann Curry that no mastermind has been arrested in the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi but that he believes it was a pre-planned act of terrorism involving elements of al-Qaida.

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