According to federal court documents filed on July 15, 2013, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspected mastermind of the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya has been charged with three federal crimes, which include “killing a person” and supporting terrorists. Khatallah was captured on Sunday by U.S. special military forces. The court documents had been sealed until Tuesday, when news of the capture of Khatallah was released. In addition to the charges of murder and aiding terrorists, he has also been charged with a weapons offense.
Khatallah is thought to have played an integral part in the attack that occurred on Sept. 11, 2012 on the U.S. outpost located in Benghazi. The attack led to the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens; a State Department security official, Sean Smith; and two men working as contractors for the CIA – Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods. According to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, Khatallah was detained in Libya on Sunday, June 15, and is currently being held outside of the country in a secure location en route to the U.S. to face charges for the 2012 Benghazi attack. Kirby also stated that no civilians were injured in the operation to capture Khatallah and that all service members involved were safely out of the country.
Late last year, Khattala, who is believed to be in his 40’s, told The Associated Press that he was living a “normal life” without fear of being captured by U.S. forces and removed from Libya, even after the U.S. named him as a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attack. Khattala claims that he commanded his militant group only during the 2011 war against Moammar Gadhafi and that he was unaware of even the presence of the U.S. consulate until the night of the attacks. He admitted to having been at the scene after being identified by a witness, but claims that he was there only to offer assistance to those who were trapped. The U.S. claims that he was a member of the terrorist group Ansar al-Shariah, which they believe was behind the attack on the consulate. Ansar al-Shariah was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in January.
The capture of Khatallah comes at an opportune time for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been roundly criticized for her role in not preventing the 2012 Benghazi attack. Clinton, thought by many to be contemplating a run for president, has publicly taken the blame for not foreseeing the attacks and preventing them.
The ability to now question Khatallah regarding the attack of September 2012 could be vital for both a Clinton presidential run or for President Obama’s legacy. The Obama administration initially blamed the attack on an out-of-control protest against a video critical of Islam, while others insist the events were due to a long-planned terrorist attack by al-Sharia which should have been prevented.
Republicans in Congress who have been conducting an investigation into the attack, notably Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is speaking out to say that the current administration is obligated to share any information that may be forthcoming from Khatallah with a special committee in charge of the investigation. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is calling for Khatallah to be delivered to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp as an enemy combatant, saying that to notify Khatallah of his Miranda right to remain silent would “be the biggest mistake for the ages.”
In a statement Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that capturing the suspect puts the world on notice that if America is attacked, the person or persons responsible will be found and brought to justice regardless of how long it might take to do so. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. will continue to search for any co-conspirators in the attack. He also indicated that additional charges against Khatallah may be forthcoming.
By Jennifer Pfalz