(CNSNews.com) – Weeks after the first trial in connection with the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi began in Washington, U.S. Special Forces have captured a second suspect in Libya, and Justice Department officials say he is on his way to the U.S. to face trial.
The Department of Justice said on Monday that Mustafa al-Imam, a Libyan in his mid-40s, has been charged for his alleged participation in the attack.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Libya’s second-largest city, an incident which Obama administration officials initially characterized as a “spontaneous reaction” to an online video mocking Mohammed.
Controversy surrounding the administration’s handling of the episode dogged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her campaign for the White House.
In a statement announcing al-Imam’s capture, Trump had a message for the families of the four slain Americans.
“To the families of these fallen heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten,” he said.
“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.”
Al-Imam faces charges on three counts – murder in the course of an attack on a federal facility, providing material support to terrorists resulting in death, and discharging a firearm in the course of a crime of violence. The charges were first filed in May 2015, but recently unsealed.
The same three counts were initially brought against Ahmed Abu Khatallah, another Libyan in his 40s, who was captured in a commando raid in Libya in 2014 and went on trial in a federal district court in Washington early this month.
Khatallah, a commander of the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia, now faces a total of 18 counts. He has pleaded not guilty.
According to the indictment, he led a group of attackers who torched the mission compound on the night of Sept. 11, resulting in the deaths of Stevens and Smith.
They then launched an armed attack against the compound, entered it and plundered documents, computers and other material.
Shortly after midnight the attackers traveled to an annex in Benghazi which they attacked with small arms fire. Several hours later they attacked the annex with mortars, killing Woods and Doherty and seriously injuring two other Americans, a foreign service officer and a security officer.
The Benghazi attack came against the backdrop of the NATO military intervention launched in March 2011, after dictator Muammar Gaddafi launched a violent crackdown on dissent. Clinton was secretary of state at the time.
By October of that year Gaddafi had been killed by rebel militia, and Libya spiraled into anarchy, with rival militias feuding and ISIS gaining a foothold.
During the 2016 U.S. election campaign Trump was sharply critical of his Democratic rival, calling the way Clinton handled the Libyan intervention a “disaster.”
In his statement on Monday, the president expressed support for the troubled country.
“The United States will continue to support our Libyan partners to ensure that ISIS and other terrorist groups do not use Libya as a safe haven for attacks against United States citizens or interests, Libyans, and others,” he said.
“Libya’s long-term stability and security are linked to its ability to form a unified government and military, and we encourage all Libyans to support the ongoing reconciliation process facilitated by the United Nations and to work together to build a peaceful and stable country.”