WASHINGTON - Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Libyan man charged in the 2012 attacks on USconsulate in Benghazi, is in UScustody and could face a judge later today, authorities said.
Khatallah is being held at a federal courthouse in D.C. amid tight security, Department of Justice spokesman William Miller said. He was flown to Washington by helicopter shortly after sunrise from a navy warship, where he had been held since his capture by US commandos in Libya nearly two weeks ago, according to media reports.
Khatallah is accused of being involved in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Libya that led to the deaths of former USAmbassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. At today’s hearing, Khatallah could face a federal judge Saturday afternoon for an initial court appearance at which the government would outline the charges against him. He would remain in detention while the Justice Department seeks a federal grand jury indictment against him.
USSpecial Forces captured Khatallah during a nighttime raid in Libya June 15-16, marking the first breakthrough in the investigation of the Benghazi attacks. A newly unsealed criminal complaint accuses Khatallah of killing a person during an attack on a federal facility, a crime punishable by death; providing federal support to terrorists resulting in death; and using a firearm in a crime of violence. USauthorities have said they are looking to identify and capture additional co-conspirators. Khatallah, a prominent figure in Benghazi’s circles of extremists, has denied his involvement in the attack, saying he was trying to organize a rescue of trapped people.
Prosecuting Khatallah will be a test of the Obama administration’s commitment to try suspected terrorists in the American criminal justice system even as Republicans in Congress call for Khatallah and others to be held at the USdetention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Khatallah is one of just a few cases in which the administration has captured a suspected terrorist overseas and interrogated him for intelligence purposes before bringing him to federal court to face charges.