United States special forces have captured a militant in Libya accused of playing an instrumental role in the Benghazi attacks that left four Americans dead in 2012.
President Donald Trump identified the militant as Mustafa al-Imam and said his capture in a high-stakes operation signified that the victims “will never be forgotten”.
Justice Department officials were escorting Mr al-Imam by military plane to the US, where he was expected to be tried in federal court.
“Our memory is deep and our reach is long, and we will not rest in our efforts to find and bring the perpetrators of the heinous attacks in Benghazi to justice,” Mr Trump said.
The Navy SEAL-led raid marked the first publicly known operation since Mr Trump took office to target those accused of involvement in Benghazi, which mushroomed into a multi-year political fracas centred on Republican allegations of a bungled Obama administration response.
Those critiques shadowed Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attacks, through her presidential campaign .
US forces captured Mr al-Imam just before midnight on Sunday (local time) in Misrata, on Libya’s north coast, US officials said.
He was taken to a US Navy ship at the Misrata port for transport by military plane to Washington, where he is expected to arrive within the next two days, one of the officials said.
Once on American soil, Mr al-Imam will face trial in US District Court for the District of Columbia as the FBI continues to investigate, the Justice Department said.
He faces three criminal charges that were filed in May 2015 but only recently unsealed: killing or conspiring to kill someone during an attack on a federal facility, providing support for terrorists, and using a firearm in connection with a violent crime.
It was not immediately clear how Mr al-Imam was allegedly involved in the September 11, 2012 violence.
The US attorney’s office said he was a Libyan national and about 46 years old.
Mr Trump said he ad ordered the raid and thanked the US military, intelligence agencies and prosecutors for tracking Mr al-Imam and enabling his capture.The US officials said the operation was coordinated with Libya’s internationally recognised government.They were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he had spoken with the relatives of some of the Americans who died in Benghazi: US ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department information management officer Sean Patrick Smith, and contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.Mr Tillerson said the US would “spare no effort” to ensure Mr al-Imam was held accountable.Mr al-Imam would face court proceedings in US District Court, officials said, in an apparent departure from Mr Trump’s previously expressed desire to send militants to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.In an interview last March with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions called Guantanamo “a very fine place for holding these kind of dangerous criminals”.The commando raid also came amid an ongoing debate about the use of US forces to pursue insurgents in Africa […]