Benghazi attack suspect on fresh list of charges

Artist's rendering shows Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khatallah in court.

Artist’s rendering shows Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khatallah in court.

The Libyan militia leader charged in a deadly attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi has been hit with a slew of new criminal counts, some punishable by death.

U.S. Justice Department announced on Tuesday that a federal grand jury in Washington indicted Ahmed Abu Khatallah with more offenses linked to his alleged role in the September 11, 2012, attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The attacks, which also targeted a CIA annex, shocked the nation and became a highly charged political talking point across the United States.

Khatallah, 43, a Libyan national, was indicted June 26 on the charge of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists resulting in death.

That charge, which is included in the superseding indictment, carries a potential life sentence.

Tuesday’s indictment includes a total of 17 new charges, including some potentially calling for a death sentence.

“These additional charges reflect Ahmed Abu Khattalah’s integral role in the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, which led to the deaths of four brave Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

“We will never relent in pursuing justice against those who commit heinous acts of terrorism against the United States,” he said.

“Those who would do harm to our citizens-no matter how far away-should understand that our nation’s memory is long and our reach is far.”

The charges that could carry death sentences include one count of murder of an internationally protected person; three counts of murder of an officer and employee of the United States; four counts of killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and a dangerous weapon; and two counts of maliciously damaging and destroying U.S. property by means of fire and an explosive causing death, the statement said.

The U.S. State Department has identified Khatallah as a senior leader of Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan group responsible for a spate of attacks and assassinations.

Khatallah will be arraigned on new charges at a hearing October 20 before Judge Christopher Cooper in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He has pleaded not guilty in an earlier arraignment.

The choice of the U.S. District Court in Washington to try Abu Khatallah was unusual, as most terror suspects tried in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks have been tried in federal courts in New York and Alexandria, Virginia.

The Benghazi attack raised questions about security at U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide and the accuracy of U.S. intelligence on militant threats.

Republicans charged that the White House failed to respond decisively and then tried to hide some facts in the grisly episode.

The Obama administration, in turn, has accused critics of politicizing a tragic event.

 
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