'Key leader' in deadly Benghazi attack captured, will be brought to D.C. for trial
Updated: June 17, 2014 - 06:40 pm
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - U.S.special forces working with the FBI captured a "key leader" suspected in the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. officials said Tuesday.
Ahmed Abu Khattala, a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terror group Ansar al-Shariah in Libya, will eventually be be brought to D.C. to stand trial on terrorism-related charges, a federal court official told ABC 7 News.
Abu Khattala will "now face the full weight of the American justice system," President Barack Obama said.
"It's important for us to send as a message to the world that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and bring them to justice," said Obama, whose administration had come under intense criticism from Republicans for being unable to apprehend those responsible for the attack.
Abu Khattala, who was captured on Sunday, is being held at "a secure location outside of Libya,” according to a statement from the Pentagon. Two U.S. officials told ABC News that he was being held on a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean.
Last year, federal prosecutors filed charges against Abu Khattala and a number of others in a sealed complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington. The complaint, unsealed Tuesday, accuse Abu Khattala of providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists that resulted in death; discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence; and killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility and conspiring to do so.
He could face the death penalty if convicted of the latter charge.
Sheldon Snook, administrative assistant to the chief judge of the court, told ABC 7 News that the only notification of Abu Khattala's arrival in D.C. would be in the court calendar about one or two days before his court appearance is scheduled.
Until now, no one had been arrested in the attack in which a group of militants set fire to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi by using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons to assault the compound.
The attack marked the first time a U.S. ambassador was killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years.
(The Associated Press, ABC News and CNN contributed to this report.)