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Benghazi suspect was captured while planning attacks, prosecutors say

The man charged in the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planning more attacks, prosecutors say

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, charged in the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was captured with a loaded firearm as he planned future attacks against American interests, federal prosecutors said Tuesday night.

Khatallah, the first person arrested in the raid that claimed four American lives, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, is to appear at a detention hearing Wednesday in federal court in Washington.

In a court filing Tuesday night, prosecutors released new details about his alleged role in the attack to bolster their opposition to any attempt by Khatallah’s attorney to seek his release on bail.

He is being held in a jail in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Va., after his capture in Libya on June 15. His initial court appearance was Saturday in Washington.

“There is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court and assure the safety of any person and the community,” the government said in arguing that Khatallah, 43, should remain locked up.

The 11-page court filing focused on Khatallah’s alleged hatred of the U.S., his complaints before the attack about the presence of a U.S. mission in Benghazi, his plans for more terrorist attacks and his nagging fear that the U.S. would retaliate against him.

“The initial attackers were armed with AK-47-type rifles, handguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers,” prosecutors said. “After the initial breach of the U.S. compound, the attackers stole a mission vehicle, forcibly entered and damaged mission buildings and stole mission property. During this initial attack, buildings within the mission were set on fire.”

Prosecutors said that “in the days that followed the attack, the defendant attempted to obtain various types of equipment, including weapons, to defend himself from feared American retaliation for the attack.”

He also “took other steps to protect himself against a future U.S. capture operation,” the government said.

Last year, prosecutors said, Khatallah “expressed anger that the U.S. conducted a capture operation of a Libyan fugitive in Tripoli, and the defendant took steps to retaliate against the U.S. by targeting U.S. interests in the region. The defendant also expressed concern that the U.S. might try to capture him in Libya and, as a result, he increased his personal security.”

They added, “The defendant has continued to make efforts to target American personnel and property since the attack and discuss with others his deadly and destructive intentions.... The defendant has repeatedly expressed his hatred of Americans and his efforts to target American and Western interests.”

Prosecutors described Khatallah as more than just a passerby on the night of the raid, as he has claimed about himself in various news interviews since the attack. The government said he was “motivated by his extremist ideology.”

“The defendant was a commander of Obaidah Ibn Al Jarrah, an extremist brigade that was absorbed into Ansar Al Sharia after the recent Libyan revolution,” prosecutors said. “AAS is an Islamic extremist militia in Libya that holds anti-Western views and advocates the establishment of sharia law in Libya.”

Further, Khatallah, “in the days before the attack, voiced concern and opposition to the presence of an American facility in Benghazi.”

The detention hearing will be held before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson.

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