Benghazi indictment refutes video narrative
Details plans to attack diplomatic compound
Federal prosecutors won an 18-count indictment against accused Benghazi attacker Ahmed Abu Khatalla on Tuesday, which charges him with leading the assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and makes him eligible for the death penalty.
The indictment, handed up in federal district court in Washington, also puts the final nail in the administration’s initial claim that the 2012 attack was a reaction to a video that mocked Islam. Instead, the indictment details Mr. Khatalla’s orchestrated plans to attack the diplomatic compound, believing it to be a CIA outpost.
“On or before September 11, 2012, Khatalla informed others that there was an American facility in Benghazi posing as a diplomatic post, that he believed the facility was actually being used to collect intelligence, that he viewed U.S. intelligence actions in Benghazi as illegal and that he was, therefore, going to do something about this facility,” the indictment says.
While that information had been made public in other settings, it marks the first time the government has detailed it in open court documents.
“Ahmed Abu Khatallah’s role in the Benghazi attack is even clearer,” said George Venizelos, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office. “As the charges allege, he was the leader of an extremist militia group who carried out this brutal act of violence that took the lives of four honorable Americans.”
The new indictment supersedes the one-count indictment the government unveiled in June after Mr. Khatalla was captured and brought to the U.S. He is now charged with being part of the conspiracy and taking part in the actual attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Mr. Khatalla pleaded not guilty to the earlier indictment. He will be arraigned on the new charges Oct. 20, the Justice Department said.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, which began the night of Sept. 11, 2012, and carried over into the morning of Sept. 12, the Obama administration said the attack was spurred by an Internet video mocking Islam. Hours earlier, a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo had focused on the video.
But the indictment says Mr. Khatalla’s goal was in fact to destroy what he believed to be a U.S.-run intelligence-gathering outpost on Libyan soil.
The document also specifically ties Mr. Khatalla to Ansar al-Sharia, the extremist group that quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, a claim the administration initially publicly rejected. The indictment says Mr. Khatalla led Ubaydah Bin Jarrah, an Islamist militia, which merged in 2011 with Ansar al-Sharia, making Mr. Khatalla a leader of that organization.