Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack (file)
Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack (file)Reuters

Reports on Tuesday reveal that US Special Operations forces captured a terrorist leader in Libya on Sunday, the first suspect arrested over the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, in which the US ambassador to Libya was murdered along with three other Americans.

Ahmed Abu Khattala, a "senior leader" of the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi which has been held responsible for the 2012 attack, was captured by special ops forces in a joint operation with the FBI that was planned for several months.

The Washington Post released the story on Tuesday, after the White House requested the paper delay publication for one day over security concerns.

According to officials Khattala is in American custody "in a secure location outside Libya," and is "en route" to the United States. Charges were filed against Khattala and over 12 others in connection to the attack, although no others have been arrested yet.

"To be clear: this was a unilateral US operation," said one American official when asked if Libya had approved the operation. "It should come as no surprise to the Libyan government that we would take advantage of an opportunity to bring Abu Khatalla to face justice."

The US operation in Libya comes after US forces last October captured a top Al-Qaeda figure, Anas al Liby, wanted for the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

A strong "reminder"

One US official called the Sunday capture "a reminder that when the United States says it’s going to hold someone accountable and he will face justice, this is what we mean."

US President Barack Obama's administration has faced heavy criticism over the Benghazi attack, and particularly then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in testimony in 2013 took responsibility for the failings around the attack.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on June 1 said he believes Clinton purposely prevented the public release of details pertaining to the attack.

Another official who came under fire was Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Adviser, who said in February she has no regrets about characterizing the September 11 attack in Benghazi as a "spontaneous response" to an anti-Islam video.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) slammed the remarks, saying he was "speechless" that Rice denied misleading the public about the true nature of the Benghazi attack, calling her comments "a little embarrassing."