US officials announced Tuesday that a joint Special Forces and FBI operation successfully nabbed Libyan national Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the man suspected as the “ringleader” for the 2012 attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Just one month following the attack, in October 2012, Fox News spoke to Khatallah in an off-camera interview. While the suspected militant admitted to being in the area of the compound, he denied that he had planned the attack. The Fox reporter was taken aback at how easy it was to find and contact Khatallah.
CNN interviewed Khatallah in May 2013 at a well-known luxury hotel in plain sight.
In an Associated Press interview last year, he casually claimed he had a perfectly “normal life” as an ordinary citizen following the attacks. “I am a Libyan citizen, and the American government has nothing to do with me. I am in my city, having a normal life and have no troubles, and if they have an inquiry to make, they should get in touch with Libyan authorities,” he said.
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed allegations that Khatallah was an easy catch. “The comparison to the fact that a member of the media, with all due respect, had contact with or interviewed this individual is not relevant,” Psaki continued, “Frankly, it is not a surprise that an individual like this would show up for an interview. We don’t think they would show up for a scheduled meeting with the special forces. So obviously it is more challenging to undertake our operations.”
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khatallah will be tried in civilian, not military, courts. He is facing three federal criminal charges. “We retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days. Even as we begin the process of putting Khatallah on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators,” said Holder.