US captures key militant behind Benghazi attack

US captures key militant behind Benghazi attack
© Getty Images

Special operations forces on Sunday captured a top militant suspected of helping lead the deadly 2012 attacks against a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, the White House announced Monday.

"Yesterday, on my orders, United States forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya," President Trump said in a statement.

U.S. commandos grabbed al-Imam during a joint mission that was approved by both Trump and the Libyan government, officials told The Associated Press shortly before the administration made a formal announcement.

The militant, who is set to be transported to the U.S. for federal prosecution, is seen as a key player in the assault against the consulate annex that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. 


"The United States will continue to support our Libyan partners to ensure that [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and other terrorist groups do not use Libya as a safe haven for attacks against United States citizens or interests, Libyans, and others," Trump's statement said, stressing that he plans to pursue the other "perpetrators of the heinous attacks."

"To the families of these fallen heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten," he added.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe four China strategies Trump or Biden will need to consider Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet How the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban MORE on Monday echoed that they will continue to track down those responsible for the attack.

"The Department of State family continues to mourn the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods, and we will spare no effort to ensure that justice is served for these dedicated Americans and public servants," Tillerson said in a statement.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE called the attack a "barbaric crime" and said the arrest is "a major step forward in our ongoing investigation."

Al-Imam, who could have operated under different aliases, was caught on video at one of the two Benghazi sites of the attacks, an administration official told CNN

Republicans have hammered the Obama administration, in particular then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Hillary Clinton touts student suspended over crowded hallway photo: 'John Lewis would be proud' MORE, over the response to the deadly Benghazi attack.

Multiple GOP congressional panels led probes into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, frequently complaining about a lack of cooperation from the Obama White House

Trump weighed in with his own criticism at the time, suggesting the administration misled Americans on the details of the deadly attacks.

"Benghazi is bigger than Watergate. Don’t let Obama get away with allowing Americans to die. Kick him out of office tomorrow," Trump tweeted in November 2012.

Initially, the Obama administration said it was a spontaneous attack sparked by anger over an anti-Muslim film. Later, officials said it was a planned attack.

—Updated at 5:04 p.m.