Benghazi Suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala Captured In U.S. Raid
State officials have announced U.S. forces captured a leading Benghazi suspect over the weekend, marking the first arrest since the deadly attacks on two U.S. outposts in 2012. The suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was apprehended Sunday near Benghazi during a covert raid planned for months alongside the FBI, The Washington Post reported. Pentagon officials confirmed that Khattala, believed to be one of the masterminds behind the September 2012 attacks, is in U.S. custody "in a secure location." Officials added that the raid went smoothly, with all U.S. personnel safely outside Libya.
The White House has yet to make an official statement on the arrest. Sources reportedly told FOX News that Khattala will be brought to the United States, where he will face prosecution. The second largest city in Libya, Benghazi was been the epicenter of uprisings and brutal assaults since the Libyan civil war broke out in 2011. That violence peaked on Sep. 11, 2012, when Islamist militants, allegedly led by Khattala, launched an assault on a U.S. diplomatic consulate, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith. Several hours later, the militants attacked a nearby CIA annex compound, killing contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to die in office since the 1988 airplane crash that killed Ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel.
Ahmed Abu Khattala was an opponent of former Libya dictator Moammar Qaddafi. Imprisoned for much of his adult life by the Qaddafi government, Khattala became an Isalmist militia leader during the 2011 Libya uprising, which ousted the dictator who ruled for nearly 42 years. Khattala created his own militia, Obeida Ibn Al Jarra, and eventually formed an alliance with Ansar al-Sharia, an extremist Islamist group. He soon became known as one of the leading rebel militia commanders in Benghazi.
According to a 2013 investigative report from The New York Times, Khattala is an avowed enemy of America and Western interests. He fought against the parliamentary elections held in 2012, eight months after Qaddafi's death, and has been open about using force against the United States. However, in interviews with The Times Khattala denied his alleged involvement in the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compounds. He also insisted that he has no connections with al-Qaeda.
Federal authorities filed criminal charges against Khattala, as well as several other suspects, in 2013.