After months of planning, Delta Force commandos and FBI agents captured Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya, late Sunday night. U.S. officials have accused Khattala of being the ringleader of a 2012 terrorist attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi that claimed the lives of four Americans.
According to unnamed sources close to the operation, a U.S. drone tracked Khattala as he drove alone on the outskirts of Benghazi. American special forces then intercepted Khattala, who surrendered without resistance. He was quickly driven to an undisclosed location and flown to the USS New York floating offshore.
A file photo of Khattala. (Photo: AP)
The Obama administration described Khattala as a “key figure” in the 2012 attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens. Khattala’s militia, Ansar al-Shariah, is designated by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and has committed numerous other acts of violence in Libya, such as the murder of General Abdul Fattah Younis, a former Qaddafi loyalist who defected to lead the rebels in fighting the Qaddafi regime in 2011.
The Obama administration said that Khattala will face trial in federal court after he is interrogated by intelligence officials. He will be tried on three charges, including attacking a federal facility and killing four US officials but Khattala has denied responsibility in spite of praising the attacks.
Tripoli condemned the raid, which was conducted without informing the Libyan government, as an infringement on Libya’s sovereignty.However, the U.S. asserts that the raid was legal because Abu Khattala was planning future attacks on Americans and according to international law, Washington had the right to act in self-defence.