President Barack Obama said in a statement he had authorized the
operation in Libya on Sunday, in which U.S. special operations
forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah. He told an audience later in
Pittsburgh that Khatallah was being transported to the United
"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," he said in a statement. He said
Khatallah would "face the full weight of the American justice
Khatallah's capture was a victory for Obama, who has been accused by
Republicans of playing down the role of al Qaeda in the 2012 attacks
for political reasons and being slow to deliver on promises of
Republicans also said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had
failed to take steps to ensure the safety of American diplomatic
personnel, an issue that is still resonating as Clinton considers
running for U.S. president in 2016.
Clinton defended the decision to put diplomats in dangerous
situations on Tuesday but noted that incomplete information
increased the risk in Benghazi in 2012.
"We send Americans into perilous dangerous places all the time, and
I believe that’s the right decision," Clinton told CNN. "We have to
do it prudently, of course, but we need to be where things are
happening that can affect us."
Khatallah was being held aboard the USS New York, an amphibious
transport dock, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of
He was grabbed on the outskirts of Benghazi in an operation carried
out by U.S. special operations forces, including some members of the
Army's Delta Force, another U.S. official said.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said
U.S. troops had acted with "extraordinary skill, courage and
precision" and that the complex operation resulted in no casualties.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said all U.S.
personnel involved had left Libya.
A U.S. official said Khatallah would be charged and prosecuted
through the U.S. court system and would not be sent to the prison
for suspected al Qaeda militants in Guantanamo, Cuba.
That is in line with Obama's policy of prosecuting suspected
militants caught abroad through the U.S. justice system rather than
trying them in the military tribunal system at Guantanamo Bay
prison, which he is trying to close.
A criminal complaint released by the U.S. district court for
Washington, D.C., accused Khatallah of killing a person in the
course of an attack on a federal facility, providing material
support to terrorists and using a firearm in commission of a crime
SPECIAL INTERROGATION TEAM
The Libyan government had no immediate comment on the U.S.
announcement. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said Libya was not notified before the secret raid. The Pentagon
said Libya had been told of the operation to seize Khatallah but
would not say when.
[to top of second column]
It was the second time the administration has said U.S. special
operations forces have gone into Libya to detain a militant. A U.S.
Army Delta Force team grabbed al Qaeda suspect Nazih al-Ragye,
better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, in Tripoli in October 2013 and
sent him to a U.S. Navy ship for interrogation.
Al-Liby was later charged in a U.S. federal court in New York in
connection with the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya, which
killed more than 200 people.
Khatallah was expected to be questioned by an elite inter-agency
interrogation team created in 2009 to seek information from suspects
to prevent future terrorist attacks, a U.S. official said. The
official could not say whether members of the U.S. High Value
Detainee Interrogation Group, which is housed at the FBI's National
Security Branch, were already in place to question Khatallah aboard
the ship where he was being held.
Lawmakers welcomed Khatallah's capture, but Republicans said they
were concerned that prosecuting him in the court system rather than
through the military tribunals at Guantanamo would hamper efforts to
interrogate him for his intelligence value.
"I want him to be held a sufficient period of time under the law of
war to gather intelligence," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South
Carolina, adding he didn't care where Khatallah was prosecuted.
"We're shutting down intelligence-gathering. We’re turning the war
into a crime, and it will bite us in the butt."
The White House defended the use of the U.S. courts to prosecute
Khatallah, saying in a statement that the justice system had
"repeatedly proven that it can successfully allow us to gather
intelligence, handle the threat we continue to face and prosecute
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Julia Edwards, Missy
Ryan and Susan Heavey; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by David
Storey, James Dalgleish, Cynthia Osterman and Steve Orlofsky)
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