US catches suspect in 2012 Benghazi attack | News | DW | 31.10.2017
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US catches suspect in 2012 Benghazi attack

US forces have a captured a militant who allegedly played a major role in an attack on the American mission in northeastern Libya five years ago. The Benghazi assault killed the ambassador and three other US citizens.

The burning US consulate in Benghazi

Armed militants stormed the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012

US President Donald Trump said the militant, identified as Mustafa al-Imam, would be brought to the United States to "face justice."

In a statement, Trump said special operations forces acting on his orders, and in coordination with Libya's internationally recognized government, had detained the suspect in recent days.

Al-Imam is accused of being involved in the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

US officials told news agencies the militant had been captured in the northern city of Misrata and was being flown by military plane to the US where he is expected to face trial in a federal court.

He has been charged with "killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility" and providing "material support to terrorists resulting in death," the Justice Department said. 

A man inspecting the inside of the US consulate in Benghazi after the 2012 attack

A Libyan official examines the charred inside of the US consulate in Benghazi, two days after the 2012 attack

Second suspect to face trial

Trump's statement said the government was working to "find and bring the perpetrators of the heinous attacks in Benghazi to justice."

"To the families of these fallen heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten," it added.

Al-Imam is the second Benghazi suspect to be taken into US custody. The alleged mastermind of the attack, 46-year-old Ahmed Abu Khattala, is currently on trial in Washington after being captured during a raid in 2014. He has pleaded not guilty to the 18 charges against him, including murder of an internationally protected person and destroying US property while causing death.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Clinton's response to the Benghazi attack dogged her 2016 presidential campaign

Clinton under pressure

The Benghazi assault started in the evening of on September 11, 2012, when armed attackers scaled the diplomatic compound's wall and moved through the front gate before setting fire to the facility. Ambassador Stevens died of smoke inhalation in hospital, becoming the first US ambassador killed in the line of duty in more than three decades.

Hillary Clinton, who was US secretary of state at the time, faced heavy criticism over her response to the attack. Republicans accused the Obama administration of  playing down the possibility of a terrorist attack because Clinton had initially said the violence was the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

Subsequent congressional hearings focused on Clinton's role and examined whether the government had misled the public. The investigation by the House Benghazi committee revealed that she had used a private email server for government work, prompting an FBI investigation.

Much of Libya has been gripped by instability since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, opening up a power vacuum that rival militias — including some inspired by global jihadist groups — have sought to exploit.

nm/kl (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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