Statement By President Barack Hussein Obama On The Apprehension Of Ahmed Abu Khatallah.
Statement by the President on the Apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khatallah
Obama: As promised, Benghazi suspect captured
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.
Yeah, one more time…….
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From The Washington Post:
U.S. captures Benghazi suspect in secret raid
U.S. Special Operations forces captured one of the suspected ringleaders of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in a secret raid in Libya over the weekend, the first time one of the accused perpetrators of the 2012 assaults has been apprehended, according to U.S. officials.
The officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured Sunday near Benghazi by American troops, working alongside the FBI, following months of planning, and was now in U.S. custody “in a secure location outside Libya.” The officials said there were no casualties in the operation and that all U.S. personnel involved have safely left Libya.
Abu 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.
In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama said that “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.”
A three-count criminal complaint filed by the FBI last July and unsealed in federal court in the District charges Abu Khattala with “killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving use of a firearm” on Sept. 11-12, 2012, providing and conspiring to “provide material support to terrorists resulting in a death” and possessing and using a firearm during a crime of violence.
Conviction on the felony counts could make Abu Khattala eligible for the death penalty or life imprisonment. In a statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Justice Department could bring more charges against Abu Khattala.
The Washington Post learned about the capture Monday but agreed to a request from the White House to delay publication of a story because of security concerns.
Last year, the U.S. Attorney in the District filed charges against Abu Khattala and at least a dozen others in connection with the Benghazi attacks. None besides Abu Khattala — who is expected to be arraigned in Washington — has been apprehended.
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity about the still-secret operation, would not say where Abu Khattala was being held. They said he was “en route” to the United States but would not say when he was expected to arrive.
Several terrorist suspects abducted overseas have been held aboard U.S. naval ships at sea while being interrogated, after which they were turned over to FBI “clean teams” to question them for trial without endangering the admissibility of evidence.
The State Department designated Abu Khattala a terrorist in January, calling him a “senior leader” of the Benghazi branch of the militant organization Ansar al-Sharia, a group that arose after the 2011 fall of the Libyan regime of Moammar Gaddafi.
Ansar al-Sharia was also designated a terrorist organization and held specifically responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and State Department security official Sean Smith dead.
Two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty, were killed early the next day in a mortar attack at a nearby CIA annex where the attackers moved after overtaking the diplomatic compound.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters after news of the capture broke that the administration had “been in touch with us for the last several days on this.”
“It’s good news,” Chambliss said. “He’s being interrogated right now.”
Officials who confirmed Abu Khattala’s capture declined to comment on whether others were apprehended with him, or to describe the specific military or law enforcement units that were involved. Last October, commandos from the Army’s elite Delta Force, along with members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, carried out a similar raid in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and abducted Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai,who is accused of participating in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Libi, is currently awaiting trial in New York.
A plan to grab Abu Khattala days after Ruqai’s capture was postponed because of violent uprisings against the Libyan government, which had approved the abductions. Asked whether Libya had approved the Sunday abduction, a U.S. official said: “I am not going to get into the specifics of our diplomatic discussions, but to be clear: This was a unilateral U.S. operation.”
“We have made clear to successive Libyan governments our intention to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack on our facilities in Benghazi,” the official said. “So it should come as no surprise to the Libyan government that we would take advantage of an opportunity to bring Abu Khattala to face justice.”
Mohammed Abdullah, a member of the Libyan Congress and president of the National Front Party, said that news of the apprehension was “a message to these criminals that they will be fought; that their crimes will not go unpunished.
“We would have loved to have the Libyan government execute the arrest warrant,” Abdullah said. “But the government’s inability to go after people like this has put us in a situation where we have to accept such raids.”
Mohamed Busidra, a Salafist Islamist member of the Libyan Congress who spent 22 years in prison under Gaddafi’s government, said “I wish that American and others would respect Libyan sovereignty.” Following the October raid, the FBI feared it had missed its best opportunity to arrest Abu Khattala.
Shortly after the Benghazi attacks, FBI agents in New York, which has territorial responsibility for Africa, began working with federal prosecutors there, although the case was subsequently moved without explanation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District.
Failure to make arrests in the Benghazi case was seen as an enormous frustration for the FBI and a subject of sharp criticism from lawmakers. Within weeks of the attacks, and sporadically thereafter, Abu Khattala was interviewed by American reporters in the open in Benghazi, where he said he did not participate in the initial assault on the Benghazi compound but came on the scene as it was ending.
In a June 11 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director James B. Comey testified: “I take the Benghazi matter very, very seriously. It is one that I am very close to — briefed on a regular basis. One we are putting a lot of work into and that we’ve made progress on.”
“One thing you’ve got to know about the FBI, we never give up,” Comey said. “So sometimes things take longer than we’d like them to, but they never go into an inactive bin.”
Believed to be in his 40s, Abu Khattala was imprisoned for many years by the Gaddafi regime for his Islamist views.
The FBI believes other groups were also involved in the Benghazi attacks and is pursuing criminal charges against several individuals, including Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah. Bin Qumu has also been designated a terrorist by the State Department, as has his group.
In 2007, Bin Qumu was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and sent to Libya, where he was detained. Gaddafi’s government released him in 2008.
The Benghazi attacks and their aftermath have been the subject of ongoing controversy. A volatile political issue, Benghazi has already influenced initial skirmishing over the 2016 presidential election, particularly for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s secretary of state at the time of the attacks.
Republicans have charged the White House with failing to secure the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, attempting to cover up what actually occurred on the night of the initial attack and mishandling the subsequent investigation. After numerous hearings and an official State Department review, a select committee has been set up in the House of Representatives to investigate further.
Initial comment from lawmakers, including Republicans, was positive. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted that he was “very pleased.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters it was “good news” that he was “very glad to hear.” McCain suggested that Abu Khattala be brought to Guantanamo.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said that she was “pleased.” But she said she hoped that “rather than rushing to read him his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent, I hope the administration will focus on collecting the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks and to find other terrorists responsible for the Benghazi attacks.”
Administration officials released no initial details on the circumstances of Abu Khattala’s detention and interrogation.
Erin Cunningham in Tripoli and Ann Marimow and Ed O’Keefe in Washington contributed to this report.
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