By Libya Herald reporters
Benghazi and Tripoli, 17 June 2014:
Ahmed Bukhatallah, the Ansar Sharia leader indicted by Washington as a prime suspect . . .[restrict]in the Benghazi September 2012 murder of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues, was seized Sunday in Benghazi, the Americans have confirmed.
A presidential statement issued today by the White House read: “With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans”.
At the Pentagon, press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said that the operation had been carried out by US special forces “ in cooperation with law enforcement personnel”. Bukhatallah was in custody aboard a US vessel before being taken to America.
As of now Washington has gone tight-lipped over precise details of the operation, news of which was broken today by the Washington Post. The Post’s reporters found out yesterday about Bukhatallah’s capture on Sunday. However at the request of the US government, the newspaper held off publication until today. It is unclear why this delay of some 24 hours was deemed necessary.
Ten days ago, Bukhatallah was involved in talks with Operation Dignity representatives mediated by elders from the west who were seeking to promote a dialogue. One of the elders involved told the Libya Herald this evening that neither side was prepared to give any ground and the talks broke up without any movement.
Sunday, the day that Bukhatallah was captured, saw some of the heaviest fighting of Operation Dignity’s assault on Ansar Sharia in which at least 57 were killed and 72 injured. The fiercest battle was around an Islamist base in Sidi Faraj, which a Dignity spokesman said had been surrounded. It may be wondered if there was some connection between the assault on the camp and Bukhatallah’s seizure.
Bukhatallah’s home is in Benghazi’s Old Laithi district. As of now, there has been no formal response from Ansar Sharia . However, this evening large crowds were gathering outside the nearby home of Bukhatallah’s parents.