Benghazi suspect in custody

Benghazi suspect in custody

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Benghazi suspect in custody

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 17 at 2:36 PM

David Jackson, Doug Stanglin and Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

The United States has captured a suspect in the 2012 attack on a facility in Benghazi that killed four Americans -- including a U.S. ambassador -- and spawned a number of investigations and accusations, officials said Tuesday.

In an operation that took months of planning, U.S. troops and law enforcement personnel detained Ahmed Abu Khatallah on Sunday after a secret raid in Libya, officials said.

Khatallah is now "in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. He added that "there were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya."

President Obama, who authorized the raid, said at a town hall-type event in Pittsburgh that Khatallah is being transported back to the United States.

"When Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice," Obama said.

Officials said Khatallah will be tried in a U.S. court. Last year, the U.S. filed charges against Khatallah and a number of others in a sealed complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Khatallah, who has denied participation in the Benghazi attacks, has been hiding in plain sight for months. He has given interviews to various media outlets, including CNN and The New York Times.

PROFILE: Who is Ahmed Abu Khatallah

"I am a Libyan citizen and the American government has nothing to do with me," he once told the Associated Press. "I am in my city, having a normal life and have no troubles and if they have an inquiry to make, they should get in touch with Libyan authorities."

Asked why it took so long to capture Khatallah, Pentagon spokesman Kirby said that suspects do try to avoid capture, and that this operation required intensive planning. Kirby said the U.S. notified the Libya government before taking action, but he didn't say when.

"This was a unilateral United States mission," Kirby said.

The Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012, has inspired an array of investigations, including an ongoing inquiry by a special House committee.

House Republicans have accused the Obama administration of failing to adequately protect the U.S. facility in Benghazi. Obama and aides have accused the GOP of politicizing the tragedy.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, congratulated law enforcement on Khatallah's capture and said, "I expect the administration to give our military professionals time to properly gather any useful intelligence he has."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has conducted Benghazi hearings as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the arrest "long overdue." Issa said the administration is obligated to share any information it obtains from Khatallah with the new select committee headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

A criminal complaint filed in Washington accused Khatallah of "killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and dangerous weapon." It also charged him with "providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death" at Benghazi.

Khatallah, a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terror group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, is the first person taken into custody in connection with the 2012 assault that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Khatallah faces pending criminal charges, and "we retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days."

Holder also vowed to identify and arrest additional alleged co-conspirators. "This is our pledge," he said. "We owe the victims of the Benghazi attack and their loved ones nothing less."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration has vowed to track down all the Benghazi perpetrators. This capture "is not the end of that effort," but "it marks an important milestone," he said.

In a written statement on the operation, Obama said "the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans. We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks."

The operation was first reported Tuesday by Fox News and The Washington Post.

U.S. officials tell the Post that Khatallah was captured near Benghazi by American troops working alongside the FBI following months of planning.

 

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