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Nabbed Libyan militant lived openly in Benghazi

By
From page A1 | June 18, 2014 |

CAIRO — The Libyan militant suspected in the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 attack on Americans in Benghazi was not a difficult man to find.

Ahmed Abu Khattala lived openly and freely in the restive eastern Libyan city — seen at cafes and in public places — even after the U.S. administration named him and another militant as suspects in the attack two years ago that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

“I am in my city, having a normal life and have no troubles,” he told The Associated Press late last year after he was first accused. He denied the allegations and said he didn’t fear being abducted from Libya.

That changed Sunday when he was detained by U.S. forces, marking the first U.S. apprehension of an alleged perpetrator in the assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Abu Khattala is being held in an undisclosed location outside of Libya and will be tried in U.S. court, according to the Pentagon press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.

A man who identified himself as Abu Khattala’s brother, Abu Bakr, called the AP office in Cairo to ask if reports his brother had been detained were true.

He confirmed that his brother has been absent and his phone switched off since Sunday. He hung up after hearing the information about the capture and did not provide more details or comment.

Abu Khattala, was the commander of a militant group called the Abu Obaida bin Jarrah Brigade. Washington has accused him of being a member of the Ansar al-Shariah group, which is believed to be behind the attack and was listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group in January.

He claimed his group was only operational during the 2011 war against ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and has since disbanded.

A witness interviewed by AP following the attack said Abu Khattala was at present at the building when it came under attack nearly two years ago, directing fighters. He admitted being there, but said he was helping in the rescue of men trapped in the area.

“It was the first time I learned that there was a U.S. consulate in this place,” Abu Khattala said a month after the attack. “And I never learned about, met, or had any relation with the U.S. ambassador.”

He said authorities never questioned him.

His confidence partly stemmed from the power that Islamic militants have accumulated in Libya since Gadhafi was ousted and killed. Militia groups, some of them inspired by al-Qaida, have operated with virtual impunity in the country, with the central government too weak to take action against them.

Abu Khattala, believed to be in his early 40s, had been imprisoned four to five times between 1996 and 2010 in Abu Salim prisons during Gadhafi’s rule, a notorious prison in the capital where most of his Islamist opponents were held. He was released in 2010 under a government amnesty.

But his name had surfaced as a suspect in the assassination of Abdel-Fattah Younis, the former top security chief under Gadhafi who defected to rebels and was gunned down along with his bodyguards in July 2011. Rebels then disbanded Abu Khattala’s group, and some members are believed to have joined Ansar al-Shariah.

He said he has since been working as a construction contractor.

Abu Khattala, believed to be originally from the western city of Misrata, seemed to be a mysterious character with few friends in Benghazi. A resident in the city who agreed to talk about him on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety said people feared to even get close to the al-Lithi neighborhood where Abu Khattala lived.

Mohammed Abu Sedra, an Islamist lawmaker in Libya, said he knew Abu Khattala during his imprisonment in Abu Salim.

“I remember that he was very introverted, depressed all the time and never talked to anyone. I always thought that he was not normal,” Abu Sedra said.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 8 comments

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  • rlw895June 18, 2014 - 6:47 am

    So now we get to revisit the claims that Obama was doing nothing to apprehend the perpetrators.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Fed Up With Being Lied ToJune 18, 2014 - 7:11 am

    I don't think rlw895 read the article. Just the first two sentences tell us a lot, as follows: "The Libyan militant suspected in the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 attack on Americans in Benghazi was not a difficult man to find. Ahmed Abu Khattala lived openly and freely in the restive eastern Libyan city — seen at cafes and in public places — even after the U.S.administration named him and another militant as suspects in the attack two years ago that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya." So please explain, rlw895, why it took Obama so long to grab this guy (and don't give us the lawyer baloney). This latest episode reeks of political games. Things are heating up on Obama so he needed to stage another diversion.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • LarryJune 18, 2014 - 8:49 am

    rlw895 and Fed Up with being lied to: Another victory for our President for capturing this militant. I know some of us will never give you the credit. If you guys are so fed up with our President, my advise to you is to leave this country now. No one will miss you, I will help you pack.....

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 18, 2014 - 2:26 pm

    Fed up: Your irrational opposition to Obama will never allow to to give him credit, even when due. I can't and won't explain anything to you. I'm no expert in covert operations, and you'd just come back with more silly questions.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • HuckleberryJune 18, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    Another victory Larry? You must be talking about our success at the borders. I love that immigrants can find jobs here and use the US services. Have to love Obama and his warm heart and I am totally proud to pay for this. Yay, we captured a bad person as we released five more. Perfect. I am so proud of our president.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • LarryJune 18, 2014 - 3:33 pm

    Huckleberry. When the House Majority (Republicans) quit playing politics and pass the Immigration Reform Bill the immigrants want be coming from Canada as you stated. Also, my concern is not those 5 who our President just release, it is those misinformed angry Americans who are waving that US Flag talking about their constitutional rights are being taken away.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • HuckleberryJune 18, 2014 - 6:27 pm

    No immigration bill should be passed until the borders are secured. Immigrants coming from Canada Larry. Cocktail hour? Im speaking of the South American immigrants that are coming through Mexico which btw is big business transporting illegals in Mexico to the US. Americans waving the flag about our rights being taken away? No it is our jobs. California is number one in welfare, taxes and bloated state employees not to mention the overcrowded prison system. I read on these sites people complaining about the shootings in Fairfield. Huge gang problem here. Hispanic gang problem. How about the Marine that is being detained in Mexico. Why isn't Obama getting him released.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 18, 2014 - 9:18 pm

    H: Stripping out all the unrelated fluff, I get from your comment "Yay, we captured a bad person.... Perfect. I am so proud of our president." Well said.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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