Ahmed Abu Khattala

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Ahmed Abu Khattala
Ahmed Abu Khattala ( أحمد أبو ختالة)

(1971-05-07) May 7, 1971 (age 51)
Occupationconstruction contractor[1]
Known forParticipation in the 2012 Benghazi attack
Criminal statusIncarcerated at ADX Florence
Conviction(s)Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists (18 U.S.C. § 2339B)
Providing material support or resources to terrorists (18 U.S.C. § 2339B)
Maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (18 U.S.C. § 1363)
Using a semiautomatic assault weapon during a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. § 924)
Criminal penalty22 years imprisonment

Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khattala (born May 7, 1971)[2] is an incarcerated Libyan, who commanded a small militia during the 2011 uprising against Qaddafi.[1] He participated in the 2012 Benghazi attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.[3]

In a December 2013 article about the attack, The New York Times described him as a central figure in the attack[4] according to Libyan witnesses, although he had no known affiliations with terrorist groups.[1]

Abu Khattala denied killing the Americans or being part of the attack.[1] In his trial in U.S. federal court in 2017, Abu Khattala was acquitted of 14 charges, including murder, but convicted of four lesser terrorism-related crimes.[5][6]

Early life[edit]

Abu Khattala grew up in el-Leithi, a Benghazi neighborhood named for the River of Oblivion.[1] He had nine years of formal schooling before earning certification as a car mechanic. After briefly working as a car mechanic, Khattala, spent most of his adult life in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, jailed by the Qaddafi government for his Islamic extremism.[2][1]

Role in 2011 uprising against Qaddafi[edit]

During the 2011 uprising against Qaddafi in Libya, he formed his own militia of "perhaps two dozen fighters", naming it Obeida Ibn Al Jarra for an early Islamic general.[1]

In June,[year needed] he marched in a parade which also included February 17 Brigade, Libya Shield, the Supreme Security Committee, and Ansar al-Shariah,[1] a "group of as many as 200 militants" who had broken away from the other militias in 2012 in protest of those militia's support for parliamentary elections in Libya.[relevant? ][1]

Political views[edit]

He opposes American involvement in Libya and in interviews with The New York Times stated that "the enmity between the American government and the peoples of the world is an old case." In regards to the role of the air campaign of NATO that overthrew Colonel Qaddafi, he believes that if NATO had not intervened, "God would have helped us." He also claimed that, "We know the United States was working with both sides" and that the US aimed at "splitting up" Libya.[1]


Witnesses[who?] of the September 11, 2012, attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi say they saw him leading the attack.[7] On August 6, 2013, U.S. officials confirmed that Abu Khattala had been charged with playing a significant role in the attack. According to NBC, the charges were filed under seal in Washington, DC in late July 2013.[8]


On the weekend of June 14–15, 2014, U.S. Delta Force special operations personnel captured him in a covert mission (codenamed "Greenbrier River") in Libya, using an informant to lure him to an isolated villa by the coastline.[9][10][11][12] According to court records, Khattala was armed with a handgun and violently resisted capture, before he was handcuffed, blindfolded, gagged, and earmuffed.[9] He was brought to Washington, D.C. aboard the amphibious transport dock USS New York.[13] He was given three medical staples while aboard due to his injuries.[9]

Following his capture, Khattala was kept in a cell where the lights were kept on for twenty-hours a day, and interrogated for five days before being given a Miranda advisory.[9]

Prosecution in the United States[edit]

On June 26, 2014, Abu Khattala was indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on one federal charge of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists resulting in death.[14] This one-count indictment was described by U.S. officials as a placeholder indictment to allow Abu Khattala to be brought to court and allow more time for a grand jury to hear more evidence.[15]

On October 14, 2014, a superseding indictment against Abu Khattala was filed, adding 17 new charges.[15][14] Of these, several carry a possible capital sentence: "one count of murder of an internationally protected person; three counts of murder of an officer and employee of the United States; four counts of killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and a dangerous weapon; and two counts of maliciously damaging and destroying U.S. property by means of fire and an explosive causing death."[14] Seven other non-capital charges were added: "one count of providing material support and resources to terrorists resulting in death; three counts of attempted murder of an officer and employee of the United States; two counts of maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and attempting to do the same; and one count of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison."[14]

Abu Khattala pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2014.[16] Abu Khattala, through his attorneys, made a motion asking for a court order to return him to Libya and forgo the death penalty.[16] Abu Khattala claimed that his right to due process was violated by his detention and questioning for thirteen days on a U.S. Navy ship and that his prosecution by the U.S. violated Libyan sovereignty.[16] In February 2016, U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper denied Abu Khattala's motion.[16][17]

Abu Khattala's trial began on October 2, 2017, and was expected to last five weeks.[9] In his opening statements, Khattala's lawyer, Jeffrey Robinson, denied Khattala's participation in the attacks.[18]

On November 28, 2017, a jury in Washington acquitted Abu Khattala of 14 of the 18 charges he faced after deliberating for five days following the seven-week trial. He was convicted of four lesser charges, including conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property as well as using and carrying a semi-automatic weapon during a crime of violence.[19]

On June 27, 2018, Abu Khattala was sentenced to 22 years in prison.[20] The judge spared him from a possible life sentence, saying he'd essentially been convicted of property crimes and that it would disregard the jury's verdict.[21] As of 2022, Abu Khattala is incarcerated at ADX Florence, the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kirkpatrick, David D.; Suliman Ali Zway; Osama Alfitori; Mayy El Sheikh (December 28, 2013). "A Deadly Mix in Benghazi". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b "United States v. Khatallah, 275 F. Supp. 3d 32 | Casetext Search + Citator". casetext.com. Retrieved 2022-02-21.
  3. ^ Calderone, Michael. "Libya Attack Suspect, Reportedly In Hiding, Spends Hours With Reporters". 10/19/2012. Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  4. ^ Stanglin, Doug (December 28, 2013). "'N.Y. Times' probe finds no al-Qaeda link to Benghazi raid". USA Today. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  5. ^ Alleged mastermind of Benghazi attack found not guilty of murder, The Guardian (November 28, 2017).
  6. ^ Adam Goldman & Charlie Savage, Libyan Convicted of Terrorism in Benghazi Attacks but Acquitted of Murder, The New York Times (November 28, 2017).
  7. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (17 October 2012). "Libya Singles Out Islamist as a Commander in Consulate Attack, Libyans Say". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "US charges Libyan with role in deadly attack on Benghazi consulate - Investigations". Investigations.nbcnews.com. 2012-09-11. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
  9. ^ a b c d e Savage, Charlie; Goldman, Adam (October 1, 2017). "At Trial, a Focus on the Facts, Not the Politics, of Benghazi". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "U.S. captures Benghazi suspect in secret raid". The Washington Post. June 17, 2014.
  11. ^ "US seizes Benghazi raid 'ringleader' Ahmed Abu Khattala". BBC News. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Elite Delta Force Commandos Capture Ahmed Abu Khattala in Midnight Benghazi Raid". Yahoo! News UK & Ireland. 18 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Benghazi Suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala Could be in U.S. by Week's End". NBC News. 23 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d Ahmed Abu Khatallah Indicted on Additional Charges for September 2012 Attack in Benghazi, Libya, United States Department of Justice (October 14, 2014).
  15. ^ a b DOJ brings possible death penalty charges against Benghazi suspect, Associated Press (October 14, 2014).
  16. ^ a b c d Spencer S. Hsu, Judge denies Benghazi suspect’s bid to be returned to Libya, spared U.S. death penalty, The Washington Post (February 2, 2016).
  17. ^ Cody M. Poplin, Judge Denies Abu Khattala Request to be Returned to Libya and Spared Death Penalty, Lawfare (February 3, 2016).
  18. ^ "Trial opens of Ahmed Abu Khattala, alleged mastermind of Benghazi attack". The Guardian. October 2, 2017. A defense attorney, on the other hand, called Abu Khattala a “Libyan patriot”, who fought on the US side in the war against the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He said Abu Khattala did not mastermind the attack. The lawyer said the defendant simply went to the attack site because he heard there was a protest and wanted to see what was happening.
  19. ^ "Benghazi 'ringleader' cleared of murder". BBC News. 2017-11-28. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  20. ^ "Libyan militia leader gets 22-year sentence in Benghazi attacks that killed U.S. ambassador". Washington Post.
  21. ^ Goldman, Adam (2018-06-27). "Benghazi Attacker Gets 22 Years, Disappointing Prosecutors Who Sought Life". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-21.

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