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US: Benghazi Suspect Was Planning More Attacks

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Tweet by @MaryFitzger of Benghazi attack suspect Abu Ahmed Khattala's photo

Tweet by @MaryFitzger of Benghazi attack suspect Abu Ahmed Khattala's photo

The United States has told the U.N. Security Council that the suspected leader of the deadly 2012 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was planning to target more Americans.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said in a letter that the apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khatallah near Benghazi on Sunday was justified to prevent more attacks and consistent with the United States' "inherent right of self-defense." He is accused of carrying out the attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Abu Khatallah, in his early 40s, is being questioned by American authorities aboard the USS New York, an amphibious transport dock ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday he will be brought to Washington to face three terrorism-related charges, including one that carries the death penalty if he is convicted.

U.S. officials say he will be tried in a civilian court, not a military tribunal, and will be provided a defense lawyer to contest the charges. Officials have not announced any timetable for his arrival in the U.S.

U.S. special operations forces carried out the arrest without casualties and spirited him out of the country. But the U.S. did not inform Libya ahead of the operation, just as it did not inform Pakistan in advance of the 2011 operation inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Libya criticizes operation

The Libyan operation drew a rebuke from Tripoli. The foreign ministry said Libya "condemns this regrettable infringement on Libya's sovereignty." Libya demanded the extradition of Abu Khatallah to stand trial there, but the U.S. is highly unlikely to agree.

The September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack and why it occurred have become a point of contention in U.S. politics. It occurred in the midst of the U.S. presidential campaign, with President Barack Obama on his way to winning re-election.
FILE - A Libyan civilian watches one of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades cars on fire, after hundreds of Libyans, Libyan Military, and Police raided the Brigades base, in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 21, 2012.

FILE - A Libyan civilian watches one of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades cars on fire, after hundreds of Libyans, Libyan Military, and Police raided the Brigades base, in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 21, 2012.

His Republican opponents have accused the Obama administration of initially downplaying the attack, claiming it was part of Mideast protests against an anti-Muslim video, so as to not hurt the president's credentials in fighting terrorism just before the election. Obama officials have rejected that contention and soon described the attack as terrorism.

Republicans have also blamed Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible 2016 Democratic presidential contender, for failing to provide adequate security at the Benghazi outpost. She was secretary of state at the time of the attack.

Numerous investigations have been conducted about how the attack occurred and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is set to start another one in the coming weeks.

Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.
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