Ringleader in Benghazi attack captured alive
WASHINGTON, DC — (CNN) — U.S. forces working with the FBI captured a key suspect in the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a U.S. official told CNN Tuesday.
Libyan militia leader Ahmed abu Khattalah was captured over the weekend, the official said. His is the first arrest in connection with the attack.
He is now being held in a location outside Libya, the official said.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. military and law enforcement personnel captured abu Khatallah on Sunday, and that he is in U.S. custody outside of Libya.
There were no civilian casualties in the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya, Kirby said.
Last year, federal prosecutors filed sealed charges against abu Khattalah over the Benghazi attack, in which scores of militants using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons attacked the compound.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens died in the attack, which became a political flashpoint.
The Benghazi incident raised questions about security measures at the compound, and whether President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had heeded prior warnings about possible assaults. Those questions still endure, especially as Clinton is perceived as considering a run for the presidency in 2016.
Last January, a Senate Intelligence Committee report on Benghazi said the panel’s majority believed that attack was “likely preventable” based on known security shortfalls at the facility and prior warnings.
In early May, House Speaker John Boehner pressed questions about the administration’s handling of consulate security and announced he would form a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. Boehner’s announcement came after previously unreleased documents, including an e-mail from a White House national security aide, raised questions about what the Obama administration knew about the armed assault and how it responded in the days after.
The attack on the Benghazi consulate occurred on September, 11, 2012, eleven years to the day after the terror attacks on U.S. soil that killed 2,977 people. The diplomatic mission was assaulted and burned, and an attack later that night involved mortar and rocket fire against a U.S. diplomatic annex in the city.
The attack was first portrayed as violence by an angry mob responding to a video made in the U.S. that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, but officials later determined the incident to be a terrorist attack.
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