U.S. nabs suspect in Benghazi attack

(USA TODAY) The United States has captured a suspect in the 2012 attack on a facility in Benghazi that killed four Americans -- including a U.S. ambassador -- and spawned a number of investigations and accusations, officials said Tuesday.

"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," President Obama said in a statement on the secret operation that led to the detention of Ahmed Abu Khatallah.

Obama said he "recently authorized" the secret raid that took place over the weekend, and involved U.S. special forces and law enforcement.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Khatallah "is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya," and added that "there were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya."

Khatallah, who has denied participation in the Benghazi attacks, has been hiding in plain sight for months. He has given interviews to various media outlets, including CNN and The New York Times.

PROFILE:Who is Ahmed Abu Khatallah

"I am a Libyan citizen and the American government has nothing to do with me," he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "I am in my city, having a normal life and have no troubles and if they have an inquiry to make, they should get in touch with Libyan authorities."

The Benghazi attacks have inspired an array of investigations, including an ongoing inquiry by a special House committee.

House Republicans have accused the Obama administration of failing to adequately protect the Benghazi facility.

Obama and aides have accused the GOP of politicizing the tragedy.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, congratulated law enforcement, and said "I expect the administration to give our military professionals time to properly gather any useful intelligence he has."

Khattalah, a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terror group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, is the first person taken into custody in connection with the assault on Sept. 11, 2012, that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Also killed in the attack were State Department official Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Officials said Khattala will be tried in U.S. court. Last year, the U.S. filed charges against Khattala and a number of others in a sealed complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Khatalla faces criminal charges and three counts and "we retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days."

Holder also vowed to identify and arrest additional alleged co-conspirators. "This is our pledge; we owe the victims of the Benghazi attack and their loved ones nothing less," Holder said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration has vowed to track down all the Benghazi perpetrators. This capture "is not the end of that effort," but "it marks an important milestone," he said.

In his statement on the operation, Obama said "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."

The operation was first reported Tuesday by Fox News and The Washington Post.

U.S. officials tell the Post that Khattalah was captured near Benghazi by American troops, working alongside the FBI, following months of planning.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson and JIm Michaels in Washington


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