Trump vows jus­tice as US cap­tures key Beng­hazi mil­i­tant

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces cap­tured a mil­i­tant in Libya ac­cused of play­ing an in­stru­men­tal role in the Beng­hazi at­tacks, of­fi­cials said Mon­day, in a high-stakes op­er­a­tion de­signed to bring the per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice five years af­ter the deadly vi­o­lence.

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.

The Navy SEAL-led raid marked the first pub­licly known op­er­a­tion since Trump took of­fice to tar­get those ac­cused of in­volve­ment in Beng­hazi, which mush­roomed into a mul­ti­year po­lit­i­cal fra­cas cen­tered on Repub­li­can al­le­ga­tions of a bun­gled Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­sponse. Those cri­tiques shad­owed Hil­lary Clin­ton, who was sec­re­tary of state at the time of the at­tacks, through her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. 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. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear how al-Imam was in­volved in the Sept. 11, 2012, vi­o­lence. The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice said he is a Libyan na­tional and about 46 years old.

Trump said he’d or­dered the raid, and thanked the U.S. mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and pros­e­cu­tors for track­ing al-Imam and en­abling his cap­ture. The U.S. of­fi­cials said the op­er­a­tion was co­or­di­nated with Libya’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment. They weren’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the mat­ter and de­manded anonymity.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said he’d spo­ken with the rel­a­tives of some of the Amer­i­cans who died in Beng­hazi: U.S. Am­bas­sador Chris Stevens, State De­part­ment in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment of­fi­cer Sean Pa­trick Smith, and con­tract se­cu­rity of­fi­cers Ty­rone Woods and Glen Do­herty. Tiller­son said the U.S. would “spare no ef­fort” to en­sure al-Imam is held ac­count­able.

Al-Imam will face court pro­ceed­ings in U.S. District Court, of­fi­cials said, in an ap­par­ent depar­ture from Trump’s pre­vi­ously ex­pressed de­sire to send mil­i­tants to the U.S. de­ten­tion cen­ter at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

In an in­ter­view last March with con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Hugh He­witt, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions called Guan­tanamo “a very fine place for hold­ing these kind of dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals.”

AP PHOTO/ BEN CUR­TIS

In this April 11, 2011 file photo, then-U.S. en­voy Chris Stevens at­tends meet­ings at the Tibesty Ho­tel in Beng­hazi, Libya. U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces cap­tured a mil­i­tant in Libya.

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