Benghazi attack suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah captured by US forces in secret raid

President Obama said the capture shows the US will "do whatever it takes" to bring justice to those who harm Americans

US forces have captured a Libyan militant accused of carrying out a deadly attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, according to the Pentagon.

Ahmed Abu Khattallah, a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia, is the first person to be detained in connection with the 2012 attack, The Washington post reported. 

Ambassador Christopher Stevens was among the four Americans who died after a group of militants set fire to the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Abu Khatallah will now be charged and prosecuted through the US court system, and would not be sent to the prison for suspected al-Qa'ida militants in Guantanamo, Cuba, according a US official.

An armed man waving his rifle outside the US consulate compound in Benghazi (AFP) An armed man waving his rifle outside the US consulate compound in Benghazi (AFP)
He is being held in a secret “secure location outside Libya” after he was apprehended on Sunday by the US military working in co-operation with law enforcement personnel, according to Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.

But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Khatallah was being held aboard an American ship after he was grabbed on the outskirts of Benghazi.

No civilians were killed in during the operation, and all of the Americans involved have safely departed Libya, Kirby confirmed.

Court documents previously sealed until news of Khatallah's capture became public on Tuesday reveal that he is charged with killing a person; supporting terrorists; and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama said in a statement that the country's authorities will continue to track down those responsible for the attacks, he said.

Read more: Cockburn: Slow-motion coup ends Libyan uprising

"Since the deadly attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans," President Obama said.

He continued: "The fact that (Khatallah) is now in US custody is a testament to the painstaking efforts of our military, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel. Because of their courage and professionalism, this individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system."

He added that the US must support the Libyan people as they work to build democracy, as the country has remained unstable since the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Obama administration has come under intense criticism from opposition Republicans for being unable to apprehend those responsible for the attack, and accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of failing to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of American diplomatic personnel.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling with President Obama on Tuesday: “We have made it clear since that cowardly attack on our facility that we would go to any lengths to find, apprehend and bring to justice those who perpetrated it."

”The capture of Abu Khatallah is not the end of that effort, but it marks an important milestone," he added.

The damaged US Special Mission after it was attacked in Benghazi, Libya (EPA/FBI) The damaged US Special Mission after it was attacked in Benghazi, Libya (EPA/FBI)
Carney said the suspect was a key figure in the 2012 attacks, but referred other questions to the Department of Defense.

Last year, the US filed charges against Khattala and a number of others in a sealed complaint filed in US District Court in Washington, but Sunday’s detention was the first since the 2012 attack.

The Libyan government had no immediate comment on announcement and it was unclear whether Washington had notified Libyan officials before carrying out the operation.

The Pentagon said it did notify the Libyan government of the operation, but did not disclose whether this was before or after the capture.

It was the second time the administration has said US special operations forces have gone into Libya to detain a militant, when a U.S. Army Delta Force team captured al Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Liby, in Tripoli in October 2013.

Al-Liby was later charged in a US federal court in New York in connection with the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya, which killed more than 200 people.

The detention comes as Libya has broken into virtual fiefdoms ruled by militias since 2011. Earlier in June, a suicide bomber tried and failed to kill the Libyan General Khalifa Hifter in Tripoli, who is trying to neutralise the influence of the militias in the country.

Following the attack, unidentified gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the office of the new Libyan Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, one of his aides said, but nobody was hurt.

Additional reporting by agencies

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn