The U.S. captured one of the central suspects in the 2012 Benghazi compound attacks over the weekend, according to a Washington Post scoop with details on the secret raid. Ahmed Abu Khattala was criminally charged last summer in connection to the deadly attacks, and designated by the State Department as a "terrorist" earlier this year American troops and the FBI worked in tandem to capture him in Libya over the weekend, following "months" of planning. Previously, Khattala has given media interviews claiming that the FBI wasn't even looking for him.
Here's more from the Post. Citing U.S. officials, the paper reports there were "no casualties" in the raid, and that all personnel involved in his capture left Libya safely:
Khattala’s apprehension is a major victory for the Obama administration, which has been criticized for having failed so far to bring those responsible for the Benghazi attacks to justice.
One jubilant official called Khattala’s capture “a reminder that when the United States says it’s going to hold someone accountable and he will face justice, this is what we mean.”
Khattala is in U.S. custody in an undisclosed location outside of Libya.
About a month after the attacks in Benghazi, Khattala gave a taunting interview where he said he wasn't going to bother going into hiding, in between sips from a strawberry frappe, as the New York Times reported. Although he was connected to the attacks early on, he has denied involvement. Here's what he said at the time:
Mr. Abu Khattala, 41, wearing a red fez and sandals, added his own spin. Contradicting the accounts of many witnesses and the most recent account of the Obama administration, he contended that the attack had grown out of a peaceful protest against a video made in the United States that mocked the Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
He also said that guards inside the compound — Libyan or American, he was not sure — had shot first at the demonstrators, provoking them. And he asserted, without providing evidence, that the attackers had found weapons, including explosives and guns mounted with silencers, inside the American compound.
Although Mr. Abu Khattala’s exact role remains unclear, witnesses have said they saw him directing other fighters that night. Libyan officials have singled him out, and officials in Washington say they are examining his role.
The Post notes that they learned about the capture on Monday, but agreed to delay publication due to security concerns. This is the first time the U.S. has captured an individual accused of planning and carrying out the attacks. Read the full story, here.
The United States has an unwavering commitment to bring to justice those responsible for harming Americans. 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. I recently authorized an operation in Libya to detain an individual charged for his role in these attacks, Ahmed Abu Khatallah. The fact that he is now in U.S. 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.
Even as we welcome the success of this operation, we also pause to remember the four Americans who gave their lives in Benghazi representing their country: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty. As I said shortly after the attack, they exemplified the values that we stand for as a nation, including a commitment to freedom and justice. All Americans should be grateful for their service, just as we are grateful to all our personnel – civilian and military – who represent our country around the globe. We will continue to honor our fallen by carrying on their efforts in support of the Libyan people’s aspirations to live in a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society.
With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans. We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks. We will remain vigilant against all acts of terrorism, and we will continue to prioritize the protection of our service-members and civilians overseas. We will also sustain our support for the Libyan people, as they work to overcome years of tyranny and do the difficult work of building a democracy.