U.S. Forces Capture Key Benghazi Suspect

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Grabbed in a Nighttime Raid, Ahmed Abu Khattala Faces Possible Death Penalty.

U.S. military and Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel have captured a senior suspect in the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, according to U.S. officials.

The suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, is currently in custody outside the U.S. but authorities plan to bring him to federal court in Washington, D.C., where charges have been filed against him. He is the most high-profile of the suspects wanted in the attack on two U.S. compounds, in which four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed. The attack has prompted sharp criticism of the Obama administration by Republican lawmakers.

Officials said the suspect was captured in the Benghazi area by special operations forces and FBI personnel, none of whom were hurt in the snatch-and-grab operation. He was grabbed in a nighttime raid on Sunday and is now being questioned by a special interrogation unit, an official said. He faces a murder charge that could carry the death penalty, another official said.

President Barack Obama said in a statement that he “recently authorized an operation in Libya to detain an individual charged for his role in these attacks, Ahmed Abu Khatallah. ”

Mr. Obama, speaking in Pittsburgh, said Mr. Khatallah’s capture sent a clear message to the world: “We will find you.”

“When Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible, and we will bring them to justice,” the president said. He praised the courage and precision of U.S. special operations forces in the capture of the suspect and said he has remained committed to finding those responsible for killing the four Americans.

U.S. diplomats “need to know that this country has their back and will always go after anybody who goes after us,” Mr. Obama said. He said Mr. Khatallah is now being transported to the U.S.

U.S. officials describe Mr. Khatallah as the leader of the Benghazi chapter of Ansar al-Shariah, an Islamist militia in the city. He allegedly directed some of the attackers who descended on the U.S. consulate and a nearby Central Intelligence Agency outpost. U.S. diplomat Sean Smith and security workers and ex-Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were also killed in the attack.

Mr. Khatallah has previously denied the allegations he directed the attack, saying he was present at the consulate the night it happened to try to calm tensions and direct people he described as protesters to go home.

Since the consulate attack, Mr. Khatallah has been protected by a network of loosely affiliated Islamist militias, many of whom have warned their rival factions in city and national politicians in Tripoli that they would react violently should Mr. Khatallah be arrested as a result of his alleged role in the consulate attacks.

Several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), a longtime critic of the Obama administration’s terrorism policies, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), called for Mr. Khattallah to be held at the prison at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Holder quickly rejected that idea, saying he will be brought to trial by jury. Mr. Holder called the capture of the terrorist suspect “a significant milestone in our efforts to ensure justice is served for the heinous and cowardly attack on our facilities in Benghazi.”

Top Republican lawmakers who have been sharply critical of the events in Benghazi said the capture was long overdue and that the U.S. should move quickly to extract intelligence from Mr. Khattallah.

“We should right now be getting from him as much intelligence as possible,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) said in a statement.

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), called on the Obama administration to “give our military professionals time to properly gather any useful intelligence he has.”

The timing of the arrest couldn’t have been better for the U.S., with many hurdles to launching an extraterritorial military operation out of the way in present-day Libya.

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