U.S. special operations forces have captured a “key” militant involved in the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic facility in the Libyan city of Benghazi that left four dead and sparked an ongoing political firestorm, unnamed U.S. government officials told the Associated Press.
The U.S. officials identified the captured suspect to the Associated Press as Mustafa al-Imam. President Donald Trump, who personally approved the mission, said in an Oct. 30 statement that al-Imam would “face justice” in the U.S. for his role in the attack.
“To the families of these foreign heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten,” Trump said. “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.”
Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Apprehension of Mustafa al-Imam for His Alleged Role in the September 11, 2012 Attacks pic.twitter.com/EHk88ZFVy0
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) October 30, 2017
According to the AP, the prisoner is currently being transported to the U.S., where he will likely stand trial. There’s a precedent for that: Ahmed Abu Khattala, the Libyan militia leader and alleged mastermind behind the Benghazi attack, faced 18 counts when his trial began on Oct. 2. The two will be the only suspects in U.S. custody in the five years since the attack; the rest remain either dead or in the wind.
The attack on the Benghazi compound on Sept. 11, 2012, killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, a State Department aide, and U.S. security contractors. The circumstances surrounding the attack fueled partisan suspicions of a cover-up by the Obama administration — particularly by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic nominee for president in 2016.
A June 2016 report from the Republican-led Benghazi Committee alleged that the CIA and State Department failed to take appropriate security measures despite warnings of a looming attack, while the Pentagon “did not meet its response times” to deploy military assets in response to the attack, as Politico put it at the time.
When reached for comment, U.S. Special Operations Command referred Task & Purpose to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which stated it had “nothing to add” to the AP report.