Members of a U.S. special forces team operating in Libya on Sunday captured the terrorist believed to be responsible for orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
President Barack Obama announced Ahmed Abu Khattala’s capture today and said he is on his way to the United States aboard a Navy ship to face justice. The weekend operation, which caught Khattala by surprise, one source told Fox News, did not result in any civilian casualties, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Khattala is the first person arrested in the attack on the U.S. mission that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
“With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans,”Obama said. “We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks.”
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, applauded Khattala’s capture, even as he called it overdue since Khattala hadn’t been shy about giving interviews to the media in the 19 months since the attack. “I hope that this capture brings us closer to justice and accountability,”Royce said. “We should right now be getting from him as much intelligence as possible.”
According to officials, Khattala has already undergone an “intelligence interrogation,”which suggests he won’t be treated like other suspects in the U.S. justice system. He faces three charges: killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility; providing or attempting to provide support to terrorists resulting in death; and using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Other charges could be added later.
Khattala was mentioned in a report from the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, which claims documents show he helped cover up a deal to sell to Muammar Qaddafi arms meant for Libyan rebels. Knowing U.S. backing meant they would win their battle with Qaddafi, the rebels sold the weapons for $500 million.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Khattala’s capture proves that the arm of U.S. law is as long as the nation’s memory. “Even as we begin the process of putting Khattala on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators,” he said.