The United States has captured a man linked to the Benghazi terror attack that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, authorities announced Tuesday.
The suspect, Ansar al-Sharia commander Ahmed Abu Khattala, was captured Sunday in Libya somewhere south of Benghazi in a joint U.S. military and law enforcement operation. He will face prosecution in the United States.
"I can confirm that on Sunday, June 15, the U.S. military — in cooperation with law enforcement personnel — captured Ahmed Abu Khatalla, a key figure in the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012," spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
There were no civilian casualties in the raid, and the suspect was in U.S. custody at a "secure location outside of Libya," Kirby said in a statement.
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Charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Washington last year against Khattala and at least a dozen others in connection with the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. None besides Khattala — who is expected to be arraigned in Washington — has been apprehended.
President Barack Obama signed off on the mission Friday night, reported The Washington Post, which first broke the story.
Obama confirmed Tuesday that Khattala is on his way to America to face charges.
"He is now being transported back to the United States," the president said.
"I say that, first of all, because we continue to think about and pray for the families of those who were killed during that terrible attack," Obama said during an event in Pennsylvania.
"But more importantly ... for us to send a message to the world that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice," he said.
Khattala was long thought to be one of the ringleaders of the deadly attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died. He had openly granted media interviews since the attack, but until now had evaded capture.
One jubilant official told The Washington Post that Khattala's capture is "a reminder that when the United States says it's going to hold someone accountable and he will face justice, this is what we mean."
"He didn't know what hit him," another source told Fox News of the weekend capture. According to sources, there was no firefight — a small Special Forces team with one FBI agent took part in the mission.
After similar raids, the United States has held suspects aboard naval ships before flying them to America to face legal charges.
Kirby said all U.S. troops and personnel who took part in the operation have "safely departed Libya."
A U.S. official said Khatalla would be charged and prosecuted through the U.S. court system and would not be sent to the prison for suspected al-Qaida militants in Guantanamo, Cuba.
After the assault on the U.S. compound, Republicans accused the Obama administration of playing down the role of al-Qaida in the attack for political reasons.
They also said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had failed to take adequate 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.
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