US Consulate in Benghazi seen in flames during 2012 attack
US Consulate in Benghazi seen in flames during 2012 attack Reuters

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador, The Associated Press reports.

A jury convicted Mustafa al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the US compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts.

Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars. He is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.

The head of the Islamist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted by a jury in November of 2017 of four counts related to the attack.

In June of 2018, Khattala was sentenced by a federal judge to 22 years in prison.

Khattala was accused of driving to the diplomatic mission on September 11, 2012, and breaching the main gate with militants who attacked with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.

Khattala, a leader of the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia, was captured by American forces in Libya in June of 2014, and had previously denied any connection to the Benghazi attack.

The initial attack killed Stevens and Smith and set the mission ablaze. Woods and Doherty were later killed at a CIA annex.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Washington asked US District Judge Christopher Cooper to send a message to others contemplating attacks on Americans overseas, saying al-Imam deserved the maximum 35-year sentence.

Defense attorneys said al-Imam made a “tremendous mistake” by damaging and looting US property after the attacks. But they insisted there was no evidence he intended to harm any Americans, noting jurors could not reach a verdict on the murder charges al-Imam faced.

“Mustafa al-Imam is a frail, uneducated and simple man,” they wrote in a court filing. “He is not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family.”

Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that al-Imam “directly caused” the killings at the US compounds, but said he aligned himself with Khattala and acted as his “eyes and ears” at the height of the attacks.