The anti-Islam film that is being used as an excuse for violent protests in many countries had "nothing to do with" a deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi earlier this month, Libya's leader told NBC News.
This assertion flies in the face of the view expressed by President Barack Obama, that the attack was part of a reaction to "The Innocence of Muslims" video. Obama hinted at this view again Wednesday in his speech at the UN General Assembly.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry, Mohammed Magariaf – who is president of Libya's National Assembly and de facto leader – noted that the assault happened on Sept. 11 and that the video had been available for months before that.
"Reaction should have been, if it was genuine, should have been six months earlier. So it was postponed until the 11th of September," he said. "They chose this date, 11th of September to carry a certain message."
Magariaf said there were no protesters at the site before the attack, which he noted had two waves: in the first, rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the consulate, and in the second, mortars were fired at a safe house.
Magariaf told Curry that the accuracy of the assault leads him to believe the attackers had training and experience using the weapons.
"It's a pre-planned act of terrorism," he said, adding that the anti-Islam film had "nothing to do with this attack." Magariaf said that while the attack appears to have been perpetrated by Libyans, "these Libyans do not represent the Libyan people or Libyan population in any sense of the word."