Captured Benghazi Suspect Will Face US Criminal Courts
BENGHAZI, LIBYA (CNN) -- U.S. forces working with the FBI captured a key suspect in the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Libyan militia leader Ahmed abu Khattalah was captured over the weekend, officials said. It is the first arrest and detention by the United States in connection with the Benghazi attack.
Abu Khattalah will be brought to the United States to face charges "in the coming days," said Edward Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Abu Khattalah, who faces three federal criminal charges, will be tried in U.S. courts, said Attorney General Eric Holder.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens died in the September 11, 2012, attack, which became a political flashpoint.
"We retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days," Holder said. "Even as we begin the process of putting Khatallah on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators."
Abu Khattalah is now being held in a location outside Libya, officials said.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. military and law enforcement personnel captured abu Khatallah on Sunday, and that he is in U.S. custody outside of Libya.
There were no civilian casualties in the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya, Kirby said.
In a statement Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel praised the service members who captured the suspect for their "unrelenting commitment to hold accountable those who harm American citizens."
"Their tireless efforts may only be known to a few but are felt by all Americans who are proud of what they do every day to defend this nation," Hagel said.
Last year, federal prosecutors filed sealed charges against abu Khattalah in the Benghazi attacks, in which scores of militants using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons assaulted the compound.
On Tuesday, a federal judge unsealed the charges, which accuse abu Khatallah of killing a person in course of an attack on a federal facility with a firearm and dangerous weapon, and of attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.
The charges, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, also accuse him of discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
President Barack Obama said he authorized the operation that led to abu Khattalah's arrest.
"This individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system," Obama said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said, however, he believed abu Khattalah should be tried in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba that the Obama administration is now trying to shutter.
"I'd bring him to Guantanamo. Where else can you take him to?" McCain said.
An ardent critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, called for a delay to criminal prosecution and said abu Khattalah should be interrogated for intelligence.
"We should have some quality time with this guy. Weeks and months. Don't torture him, but have some quality time with him," Graham said. "I'm glad they caught the gentleman and at the end of the day I hope we gather intelligence through the law of war and interrogation.
"If they bring him to the United States, they're going to Mirandize this guy and it would be a mistake for the ages to read this guy his Miranda rights," Graham said.