With Hillary Clinton still plagued by relentless confrontations about her role in the Benghazi fiasco, which apparently are "making a difference", and certainly distracting from Obama's otherwise impeccable domestic (and foreign) reign, it was about time the US finally exposed a much more "appropriate" scapegoat for the public anger surrounding the events in Libya on September 11, 2011. Which is precisely what it did earlier today, when it was revealed not only who it believes the "mastermind" of the Benghazi attack is, but that the person in question, Ahmed Khatallah, had been captured.
As the just unsealed attached criminal complaint reveals, Khatallah was charged with i) Killing a Person in the course of an attack on a Federal Facility, ii) Providing, Attempting and Conspiring to Provide material support to terrorists, and iii) Discharging, Using and Carrying a Firearm During a Crime of Violence.
As Time further reports, the suspect was captured during a covert raid in Libya. Time adds, unnecessarily, that this capture "gives a welcome foreign policy victory for the Obama Administration."
U.S. special forces and law enforcement personnel apprehended Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a senior leader of the militant group Ansar al-Shari’a, on Sunday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
“He is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya,” Kirby said. “There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya.”
American officials wouldn’t yet say where Khatallah will be transferred to, though he is expected to be turned over to law enforcement for trial in the United States in the coming days. The Department of Justice filed criminal charges against Khatallah in a sealed indictment in federal court last year.
In what is now a periodic tactic for the administration (recall the "murder" of Osama coming at yet another sensitive moments for the president), Obama was quick to chime in:
“The United States has an unwavering commitment to bring to justice those responsible for harming Americans,” Obama said in a statement. “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. I recently authorized an operation in Libya to detain an individual charged for his role in these attacks, Ahmed Abu Khatallah. The fact that he is now in U.S. custody is a testament to the painstaking efforts of our military, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel.”
“This individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system,” Obama said.
What is perhaps more curious is why it took Obama nearly two years to find a person who was openly living in Libya after the attacks, and in fact gave interviews several interviews with TIME magazine in 2012, but with AP in October 2013:
The Libyan militant accused by Washington in the killing of the U.S. ambassador told The Associated Press on Monday he's not worried about being next on the list for capture by the Americans after the U.S. commando raid that spirited a senior al-Qaida suspect out of Tripoli.
Ahmed Abu Khattala's confidence reflects the power that Islamic militants have grown to wield in Libya since the 2011 ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Militia groups, some of them inspired by al-Qaida, operated with virtual impunity in the country, with the central government too weak to take action against them.
Now many of the groups are furious over Saturday's U.S. special forces raid that captured Abu Anas al-Libi, wanted by the Americans for more than a decade over the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. Some have hinted at retaliation at U.S. and other foreign interests and have lashed out at the government, accusing it of colluding with Washington.
"We only fear God," Abu Khattala told AP by telephone from Benghazi, when asked if he is concerned he too could be snatched. Abu Khattala lives openly in the city, despite the indictment against him in a U.S. court over the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. He denies any role in the attack.
And with the NYT, where we read the following pearl:
Witnesses and the authorities have called Ahmed Abu Khattala one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission here. But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.
Libya’s fledgling national army is a “national chicken,” Mr. Abu Khattala said, using an Arabic rhyme. Asked who should take responsibility for apprehending the mission’s attackers, he smirked at the idea that the weak Libyan government could possibly do it. And he accused the leaders of the United States of “playing with the emotions of the American people” and “using the consulate attack just to gather votes for their elections.”
Mr. Abu Khattala’s defiance — no authority has even questioned him about the attack, he said, and he has no plans to go into hiding — offered insight into the shadowy landscape of the self-formed militias that have come to constitute the only source of social order in Libya since the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Although Mr. Abu Khattala said he was not a member of Al Qaeda, he declared he would be proud to be associated with Al Qaeda’s puritanical zeal for Islamic law. And he said that the United States had its own foreign policy to blame for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Why is the United States always trying to impose its ideology on everyone else?” he asked. “Why is it always trying to use force to implement its agendas?”
Perhaps this is a good question to ask whatever country the US is "liberating" right now - Iraq comes to mind.
Time adds that Khatallah denied allegations that he spearheaded the attack, saying that it had erupted spontaneously out of street demonstrations. “The attack came from the people,” Khatallah said. “I don’t support the attack on American diplomats in Libya,” he added, “but if Americans get involved in Libyan issues they need to watch out what they are going to get.”
He may well be right. However, all that matters for now is that the public anger is deflected from Hillary and redirected to yet another middle easterner.
For the time being, however, any attempts to read the attached Affidavit from case 13-mj-00572, District of Columbia District Court, aka USA v. KHATALLAH, which was just unsealed, results in complete failure.