Navy SEAL raid nets Benghazi attack leader
It took more than five years, but the US has captured another alleged leader of the terrorist attack that took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. A Navy SEAL raid in Libya captured Mustafa al-Imam, a radical Islamist militia leader suspected of playing a major role in the Ansar al-Sharia attack on both the US consulate and its security annex on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Department of Justice has waited almost thirty months to serve this warrant:
U.S. forces captured al-Imam just before midnight local time Sunday in Misrata, on Libya’s north coast, U.S. officials said. He was taken to a U.S. Navy ship at the Misrata port for transport by military plane to Washington, where he’s expected to arrive within the next two days, one of the officials said.
Once on American soil, al-Imam will face trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as the FBI continues to investigate, the Justice Department said. He faces three criminal charges that were filed in May 2015 but only recently unsealed: killing or conspiring to kill someone during an attack on a federal facility, providing support for terrorists, and using a firearm in connection with a violent crime. …
President Donald Trump identified the militant as Mustafa al-Imam and said his capture signified that the four Americans who died “will never be forgotten.” Justice Department officials were escorting al-Imam by military plane to the United States, where he’s expected to be tried in federal court.
“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,” Trump said.
In this case, justice delayed may be justice delayed even longer. The US took almost two years to capture Ahmed Abu Khattala for his role in the Benghazi attack, even though Abu Khattala didn’t bother to hide at all. Despite being in custody for over three years, Khattala only went to trial this month, and the case has not yet concluded. How long will it take to get Abu Khattala into court?
It’s doubtful it will be fast enough to satisfy former Marine Mark Geist, one of the survivors of the Benghazi attack. Geist says true justice will come in the next world — but he’s happy to see a little of it in this one:
Newser notes that Trump, who ordered the raid, also agreed to send Al-Imam to federal court rather than Gitmo:
Once on American soil, al-Imam faces three charges filed in May 2015 but only recently unsealed: killing or conspiring to kill someone during an attack on a federal facility, providing support for terrorists, and using a firearm in connection with a violent crime. Trump said he’d ordered the raid, and thanked the US military, intelligence agencies, and prosecutors. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US would “spare no effort” to ensure al-Imam is held accountable. Al-Imam will face court proceedings in US District Court, in a departure from Trump’s previously expressed desire to send militants to Guantanamo Bay. Earlier this month, another man accused in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, went on trial in federal court.
Hadn’t that decision already been made for Trump, in large part? The Obama-era Department of Justice sought and won an indictment against Al-Imam more than two years ago. Jeff Sessions could have withdrawn it, one supposes, and Trump could have ordered Al-Imam to go to Guantanamo, but not without a great deal of legal and political challenges. Presumably Sessions thinks he has an airtight case for federal court — and he’d better.