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White House doesn't dispute report finding no al Qaeda role in Benghazi attack

Esam Omran Al-Fetori / Reuters file

An interior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 12, 2012.

A senior Obama administration official said the White House does not dispute a New York Times article published Saturday about the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which found no evidence al Qaeda was involved. 

According to the in-depth report, the Times found no proof that al Qaeda or any international terrorist groups played any role in the assault, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The six-part report goes on to say that an American-made video mocking Islam largely triggered the attack, which was not well-planned.  

"The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi," the Times report reads, referring to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. "And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam." 

The newspaper said its investigation took months and was "centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context."

It is not surprising the White House would welcome this report. Since the attack, Republicans have accused the Obama administration of downplaying the perpetrators' links to al Qaeda for political gain. The attack took place during the last leg of the 2012 presidential campaign. 

Then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice (now the national security advisor) became a lightning rod of criticism after appearing on all the Sunday talk shows shortly after the Benghazi attack and arguing it was the result of the American-made video. 

Republicans have also held several hearings into the administration's handling of the attack and its aftermath.

NBC News has not independently verified the Times report, which is the first to argue the video played a large role in sparking the violence in Benghazi.