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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Libyan militant 'in US court'

Published 28/06/2014 | 15:47

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Ahmed Abu Khattala has appeared at a US federal courthouse, a Washington spokesman said

A Libyan militant charged over the 2012 Benghazi attacks has arrived at federal court in the US, officials in Washington said.

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A spokesman for the US attorney's office confirmed Ahmed Abu Khattala was in custody and there was heightened security at the courthouse but declined to comment further.

Abu Khattala faces criminal charges over the deaths of the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans from the attack on September 11, 2012.

US special forces captured him in Libya two weeks ago, marking the first breakthrough in the investigation of the Benghazi attacks.

US officials had been questioning Abu Khattala aboard a Navy amphibious transport dock ship that brought him to the United States.

Abu Khattala may face a judge on Saturday for an initial court appearance at which the government would outline the charges against him.

A newly unsealed criminal complaint accuses Abu Khattala 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. US authorities have said they are looking to identify and capture additional co-conspirators.

The violence on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon quickly became a political flashpoint. Republicans accused the White House, as the 2012 presidential election neared, of intentionally misleading the public about what prompted the attacks. The White House accused Republicans of politicising a national tragedy.

Abu Khattala acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press in January that he was present during the storming of the US mission in Benghazi. But he denied involvement in the attack, saying he was trying to organise a rescue of trapped people.

In the attack, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and stormed the mission, with many waving the black banners of Ansar al-Shariah, a powerful Islamic militia.

The compound's main building was set ablaze. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed and another American was shot dead. Later in the evening, gunmen attacked and shelled a safe house, killing two more Americans.

At the time, several witnesses said they saw Abu Khattala directing fighters at the site.

No evidence has emerged that Abu Khattala was involved in the later attack on the safe house.

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