Ahmed Abu Khattala: Suspected Benghazi leader in Washington court.

Suspected Leader in Benghazi Attack Arrives in Washington Court

Suspected Leader in Benghazi Attack Arrives in Washington Court

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June 28 2014 1:31 PM

Suspected Leader in Benghazi Attack Arrives in Washington Court

Media start to gather outside the US federal courthouse that had heightened security on Saturday

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Libyan militia leader who is suspected of being the ringleader of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, is in federal law enforcement custody in the United States. Ahmed Abu Khattala was transferred early Saturday morning from a Navy ship to the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., where security has been tightened. Abu Khattala has been fingerprinted and photographed and could come before a federal judge as early as Saturday afternoon, reports the New York Times.

The move formally opens “one of the most complicated terrorism cases the Justice Department has mounted in recent years,” adds the Times. Abu Khattala has been charged with three counts in connection to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, claiming he killed one person in the attack, provided support to terrorists and used a firearm in a violent crime. Special Forces captured Abu Khattala two weeks ago and have been questioning him ever since. He wasn’t immediately informed of his Miranda rights under a “public safety” exception, but it’s unclear whether that situation had changed Saturday morning, notes the Washington Post.


It’s unusual that authorities chose to send such a high-profile terrorism suspect to Washington considering that “since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, nearly all such suspects have been tried in federal courts in New York or Alexandria, Va.,” points out the Times. Still, the use of a courthouse in the capital to prosecute him is seen as an illustration of how the Obama administration is sticking to its position of trying suspected terrorists in the U.S. justice system, notes the Associated Press. Despite the challenges of mounting the criminal investigation, officials say they have managed to collect surveillance videos, phone wiretapping records and witness statements that incriminate Abu Khatallah, who has publicly denied he participated in the attacks.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.