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Suspected Benghazi attack mastermind pleads not guilty

By MATT HANSEN AND RICHARD A. SERRANO | Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT) | Published: October 21, 2014

WASHINGTON — The accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks in Libya that killed an American ambassador and three other U.S. personnel pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday to charges stemming from the incident.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, 43, was indicted in June on a terrorism charge, but a grand jury added 17 additional charges last week, including murder of an internationally protected person to destruction of federal property. He faces life imprisonment or death.

During the hearing, the federal judge asked prosecutors if additional defendants would be named. The prosecution responded only that the investigation was ongoing.

In response to complaints from defense attorneys, prosecutors said they had given roughly 60-80 percent of their evidence to Khatallah’s team, saying that they had collected more than 4,000 pages of material, 150 hours of non-classified video and more than 500 pages of classified documents in the continuing investigation.

Khatallah is suspected of planning the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three U.S. support and security staff members. Prosecutors allege Khatallah, who they say led a local Islamist militia, was motivated to establish Sharia, or traditional Islamic law, in the country, and planned to attack U.S. compounds, kill Americans and steal documents.

Militants targeted the facility because they believed the diplomatic mission was “being used to collect intelligence,” according to the indictment.

Khatallah was captured in June in Libya.

The Benghazi attack, which the Obama administration initially blamed on a violent protest against an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States, has become a political controversy that has led to Senate hearings and an ongoing FBI investigation.

Khatallah’s next hearing will take place in December.

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©2014 Tribune Co. Distributed by MCT Information Services
 

This undated image obtained from Facebook shows Ahmed Abu Khattala, an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, who was captured by U.S. special forces on Sunday, June 15, 2014, on the outskirts of Benghazi.
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