السبت , يونيو 6 2020

US seizes Benghazi raid 'ringleader'

Remains of cars destroyed during the 11 September 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi Gunmen raided the consulate and set it on fire

The suspected ringleader of the September 2012 raid on a US diplomatic post in the Libyan city of Benghazi, that left four Americans dead, has been captured, the Pentagon says.

Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into custody in a secret US military raid in Libya on 15 June.

He is now being held in a secure location outside the country, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in the attack.

“There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all US personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby wrote in a statement.

‘Key figure’

After the announcement, President Barack Obama praised the courage and professionalism of the military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel who tracked and captured Mr Abu Khattala, whom the US describes as a “key figure” in the attack.

“With this operation, the US has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans,” he said in a White House statement.

Mr Abu Khattala has been charged in a federal court in Washington DC with killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility, providing material support to terrorists, and a firearms count, court records show.

It is thought that Mr Abu Khattala is being questioned offshore before he is brought before the court, the BBC’s David Willis in Washington reports.

On 11 September 2012, gunmen stormed the US consulate in Benghazi and set it on fire.

In addition to Mr Stevens, information technology specialist Sean Smith and security workers and ex-Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.

The White House initially said the attack stemmed from anti-American protests over a crude video produced in the US that was deemed insulting to Islam.

Critics of Clinton

Government investigators soon determined it was an organised attack planned by local militias, although the New York Times claimed after an extensive investigation that some of the attackers were indeed motivated by the film.

The US quietly offered as much as $10m (£6.2m) for information in the months following the attack.

In subsequent years, the incident has become a political lightening rod, with Republicans accusing President Barack Obama’s administration of covering up the involvement of militant groups in the days after the attack in order to assist Mr Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

In May, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to establish a committee to investigate the White House response to the attack.

The special panel was approved in a 232-186 vote, which went largely along party lines, and is said to be the eighth inquiry on Benghazi.

Previous independent, cross-party and Republican-led inquiries have blamed the state department for inadequate security at the embassy.

Republicans have been very critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is now weighing a 2016 presidential run.

Given the questions the Republicans have raised, the White House is very happy Mr Abu Khattala is in custody, our correspondent adds.

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