Ahmed Abu Khattala

The leader of the infamous 2012 assault on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya has been captured. Ahmed Abu Khattala was apprehended Monday and now will hopefully explain what exactly occurred on September 11, 2012 that led to the deaths of four Americans, including an ambassador, in Benghazi and why.

Investigating the causes and events of the attack on Benghazi has become a political football in Washington with Republicans attempting to exploit the issue for partisan advantage and targeting President Obama and possible 2016 presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as culprits in a coverup. Part of the gripe is based on a belief, held by many conservatives, that Obama and his team purposely downplayed the role of terrorists in the attack to help his 2012 re-election campaign.

One question that may already be answered is how deep Al Qaeda’s role was in the attack. Abu Khattala is a local jihadist and not considered to be connected to any larger organizations, at least operationally, by US officials.

Despite extensive speculation about the possible role of Al Qaeda in directing the attack, Mr. Abu Khattala is a local, small-time Islamist militant. He has no known connections to international terrorist groups, say American officials briefed on the criminal investigation and intelligence reporting, and other Benghazi Islamists and militia leaders who have known him for many years.

In several hours of interviews since the attack, Mr. Abu Khattala was happy to profess his admiration for Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda. He insisted that American foreign policy alone was to blame for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But he remained a distant admirer of Mr. Bin Laden’s organization, having spent most of his adult life in and out of jail for his extremism under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

It was apparently Khattala’s prison record that gave him social cache in the fight against Qaddafi where Khattala formed his own militia called Obeida Ibn Al Jarra in Benghazi. The group became feared throughout Benghazi and is believed to be the ones who attacked and killed four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, on September 11, 2012. Khattala was seen in the area and is reported to have commanded the attack.

What happens next in the Benghazi investigations convened in Congress is unknown, though Abu Khattala’s capture will answer some questions his imprisonment has already become a political issue in Washington. Something else Benghazi-related to fight about.

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