President Obama said the capture of a suspect connected with the Sept. 11, 2012, consulate attack in Benghazi proves “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,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “I recently authorized an operation in Libya to detain an individual charged for his role in these attacks, Ahmed Abu Khatallah. 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.”
“Because of their courage and professionalism, this individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system.”
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said this morning that on Sunday the U.S. military “in cooperation with law enforcement personnel” captured Khatallah, a commander with Ansar al-Sharia. “He is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya.”
“There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya,” Kirby added.
Khatallah was charged in July with playing a role in the attack.
Obama said that “even as we welcome the success of this operation, we also pause to remember the four Americans who gave their lives in Benghazi representing their country: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.”
“As I said shortly after the attack, they exemplified the values that we stand for as a nation, including a commitment to freedom and justice. All Americans should be grateful for their service, just as we are grateful to all our personnel – civilian and military – who represent our country around the globe. We will continue to honor our fallen by carrying on their efforts in support of the Libyan people’s aspirations to live in a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society,” he continued.
“With this operation, 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. We will remain vigilant against all acts of terrorism, and we will continue to prioritize the protection of our service-members and civilians overseas. We will also sustain our support for the Libyan people, as they work to overcome years of tyranny and do the difficult work of building a democracy.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the news was welcome yet overdue, particularly as Khatallah wasn’t concealing himself.
“The U.S. military and intelligence personnel deserve great credit. This is overdue, considering that this individual has made himself available to multiple media outlets in the 19 months since the deaths of four Americans, including the first U.S. Ambassador killed in an attack since 1979,” Royce said. “I hope that this capture brings us closer to justice and accountability. We should right now be getting from him as much intelligence as possible.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters it’s “obviously good news that this terrorist is now in American custody, and I am grateful for the work of our military — assisted by the FBI — in capturing him.”
“I look forward to hearing more details regarding the raid, and I expect the administration to give our military professionals time to properly gather any useful intelligence he has,” Boehner added.