In a secret raid Sunday, U.S. special operations troops captured the suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack against two American government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, putting a key figure in the deadly assault in U.S. hands for the first time, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah was captured near Benghazi by U.S. troops working with the
He is not expected to make his first appearance in court until sometime next week, the official said.
In a statement,
There were no casualties in the raid and all U.S. personnel have left Libya, the statement said.
Obama said the U.S. also remained committed to supporting the Libyan people "as they work to overcome years of tyranny and do the difficult work of building a democracy."
The law enforcement official said Khatallah was questioned initially about any new potential terror threats and was then read his Miranda rights. With Khatallah now in custody, prosecutors are likely to submit the case to a federal grand jury, which could bring additional charges.
The decision to try Khattalah in federal court could be controversial.
But Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder have argued that federal courts have repeatedly proven capable of handling such high-profile cases.
Khatallah’s capture is a major success for the administration, which has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism from
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J.
The FBI investigation of the incident was stalled for months by instability in Libya. The country's weak government ruled out extraditing its citizens to the U.S.
Until his capture, Khatallah continued to live freely in Libya while giving taunting interviews to major media outlets as recently as six months ago. The
Benghazi, the hub of Libya's east, has been beset by turmoil in recent months, and the chaos deepened last month when a rogue ex-general based in the city launched a self-declared war on Islamist armed groups, resulting in more than 100 deaths.
Khalifa Hiftar, who spent years in exile in the United States, has the support of some Libyan military units, and has used military aircraft to bombard the positions of Islamist militias. Even before Haftar's offensive, assassinations and car bombings were common in Benghazi, most often taking aim at security targets.
This week, authorities ordered an overnight ban on vehicle traffic in the city in an effort to stem militia clashes that had been breaking out nightly as soon as darkness fell.
The circumstances surrounding the September 2012 Benghazi attack sparked a long-running partisan battle. A report earlier this year by House Republicans blamed the Obama administration for failing to beef up security.
But the same report debunked persistent claims about the response to the incident: that the
"There was no 'stand down' order issued to
On Sunday, questioned again about her role, she suggested that no additional explanation she offered would satisfy her critics.
"There's a difference between unanswered questions and unlistened-to answers," Clinton told Jane Pauley in an interview on "CBS Sunday Morning."
"There were a lot of confusing pieces of information flooding into us from the very first moment we heard about it," Clinton said, referring to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. "We did our best to sort it out."
"I did my best to fully cooperate with the
Times staff writer Neela Banerjee contributed to this report