On June 15, 2014, the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force) captured suspected Benghazi ring leader Ahmed Abu Khattala in a covert mission in Libya.
Khattala was an Islamist militia commander in Libya, who commanded extremist group Ansar al-Sharia. He is suspected of participating in the 2012 Benghazi attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in which the American Ambassador and three other Americans were killed. In a December 2013 investigation of the attack, the New York Times described him as a central figure. Abu Khattala denies killing the Americans or being part of the attack.
In the months that led up to the raid, Delta Force commandos rehearsed the operation at a mock up of Khattala’s compound at Fort Bragg, NC. On June 15th, the Delta team and FBI agents captured Khattala, who was wanted for the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith and contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Abu Khattala spent most of his adult life in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, jailed by the Qaddafi government for his Islamist views. During the uprising against Qaddafi in Libya, he formed his own militia of “perhaps two dozen fighters”, naming it Obeida Ibn Al Jarra for an early Islamic general. He later became involved in Ansar al-Shariah, a “group of as many as 200 militants” who, had broken away from the other militias in 2012 in protest of those militia’s support for parliamentary elections in Libya. He opposed American involvement in Libya and in interviews with the New York Times stated that “the enmity between the American government and the peoples of the world is an old case.” In regards to the role of the air campaign of NATO that overthrew Colonel Qaddafi, he believes that if NATO had not intervened, “God would have helped us.” He also claimed that, “We know the United States was working with both sides” and considering “splitting up” Libya.
Witnesses of the September 11, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi say they saw him leading the attack. On 6 August 2013, U.S. officials confirmed that Abu Khattala had been charged with playing a significant role in the attack. According to NBC, the charges were filed under seal in Washington, DC in late July 2013.
White House Statement
On June 17, 2014, President Obama released the following statement: “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 Khattala. 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.”