Libya: US violated sovereignty with suspect’s capture
TRIPOLI: US commandos violated Libya’s sovereignty when they seized the suspected ringleader of a deadly 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Special forces carried out Sunday’s stealth operation under cover of night, capturing Ahmed Abu Khatallah near Benghazi and spiriting him out of the country.
“The government condemns this regrettable infringement on Libya’s sovereignty,” foreign ministry spokesman Said Lassoued said in a statement, adding that Tripoli had not been informed in advance.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah is now en route to the United States, where he could face the death penalty, officials said Tuesday.
The raid represented a victory for President Barack Obama, who has faced intense criticism over his administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi assault and its aftermath.
Four Americans including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed when gunmen stormed the US Consulate and set it on fire, and a CIA outpost was also targeted.
“The United States has an unwavering commitment to bring to justice those responsible for harming Americans,” Obama said.
“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.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said the raid showed “our nation’s memory is long and our reach is far.”
There were no civilian or other casualties in Sunday’s raid and US troops taking part in the operation have “safely departed Libya,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
Kirby would not say whether Washington gave advance notice to Tripoli. He said it was a “unilateral” action without any Libyan forces involved but declined to offer more details of the operation, including whether any shots were fired.
The suspect was being held temporarily on a naval ship, as in similar raids in the past, according to defense officials.
US federal prosecutors have charged Khatallah with murder, carrying a weapon and offering material support to “terrorism,” according to an indictment. The first charge potentially carries the death penalty.