US Captures Benghazi Attack Suspect
by Jeff Seldin June 17, 2014
The United States says it has captured a key suspect in the 2012 assault on its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans.
The Defense Department said Tuesday that a military unit, along with law enforcement personnel, arrested Ahmed Abu Khatallah on Sunday and is holding him in a secure location outside of Libya. He was identified as a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terror group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. He is expected to be tried in a U.S. court.
Military officials gave no details of the operation, but said there were no civilian casualties related to it and that all U.S. personnel involved in it had safely left Libya.
President Barack Obama, in a statement, said he had authorized the mission as part of his 'priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans.'
Besides Stephens, the victims included Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Obama praised U.S. military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel involved in the mission, saying the government will "continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks." He added that the United States "will also sustain our support for the Libyan people, as they work to overcome years of tyranny and do the difficult work of building a democracy."
Secretary of State John Kerry, noting the department "felt the loss of our colleagues in Benghazi acutely, also lauded the U.S. military, saying its "bold action … is a clear reminder to anyone who dares do us harm that they will not escape with impunity."
The U.S. filed charges against Khatallah and others last year, but until now had not apprehended any of them.
The embassy attack on Sept. 11, 2012, occurred on the anniversary of the massive 2001al-Qaida attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The circumstances surrounding the attack have proved to be contentious in U.S. politics. Republicans have accused Hillary Rodham Clinton, the possible 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, of failing to provide adequate security at the Benghazi compound to prevent the attacks, which occurred during her time as secretary of state.
White House officials at first indicated the attack was related to protests over an anti-Muslim video, similar to demonstrations occurring in the Mideast in early September 2012. But U.S. officials later acknowledged that it was terrorist attack.
A new, Republican-controlled congressional panel is set to hold hearings on the attack in the coming weeks.
Luis Ramirez contributed to this report from the White House.
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