By Jeremy Herb
The Justice Department has filed the first criminal charges stemming from last year’s attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, against Ahmed Khattalah, the leader of a Libyan militia, CNN reports.
Federal agents and prosecutors filed charges under seal against Khattalah for his role in the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Both reports said it was still unknown what specific charges were filed against the suspects in the Benghazi attack.
“If our government knows who perpetrated the attack that killed four Americans, it is critical that they be questioned and placed in custody of U.S. officials without delay,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement. “Osama Bin Laden had been criminally charged long before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but was not apprehended. Delays in apprehending the suspected Benghazi killers will only put American lives at further and needless risk.”
The charges are the first to stem from last year’s terrorist attack, which has become a political flashpoint for critics of the Obama administration.
They have accused the Obama administration of failing to properly respond to the attack, pointing to the lack of charges against the perpetrators.
Last week, Republicans were drafting a letter to new FBI Director James Comey, urging him to step up the Benghazi investigation and calling the administration’s efforts “simply unacceptable.”
"It has been more than 10 months since the attacks," stated the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "We appear to be no closer to knowing who was responsible today than we were in the early weeks following the attack. This is simply unacceptable.”
In May, the FBI released the photos of three men who were on the grounds of the attack and asked for help identifying them.
Khattalah, who is the head of the Libyan militia group Ansar al-Sharia, has remained in the public eye and granted interviews to reporters even as he has been under investigation by U.S. and Libyan authorities.
He long said that he was present at the U.S. facility the night of the attack, though he’s denied a role in it. In an October 2012, profile, Khattalah told The New York Times that he had arrived as the gunfire was beginning and sought to break up a traffic jam around the demonstration.
—This report was originally published at 4:18 and was last updated at 7:01 p.m.