U.S. Captures Suspected Benghazi “Ringleader” Ahmed abu Khattalah

The breaking news this morning is that the U.S. Special Ops forces have captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.  Government officials have said that Abu Khattala is being held “in a secure location outside of Libya,” with some media outlets reporting that he is currently being held on a ship “en route” to the U.S.  If the latter reports are true, many (but not necessarily all) of the issues raised by last fall’s capture of Abu Anas al-Libi by U.S. Navy Seals may be applicable here as well.

As this development continues to unfold, we’d recommend some of Just Security‘s comprehensive coverage and analysis of the al-Libi raid from last fall as a primer of legal issues that could be in play with the Abu Khattala capture.  Some of the highlights included a post from Ryan Goodman and Sarah Knuckey discussing the international legal issues implicated by the raid, a post from Jen Daskal and Steve Vladeck on the domestic legal issues at stake, and a post from Mary Lederman and Mary DeRosa which discussed last fall’s raid within the larger context of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy.

[Update:] For sake of clarity, one important distinguishing factor between the Abu Khattala capture and the al-Libi raid is that unlike al-Libi, it is not at all clear that Abu Khattala could be subject to AUMF-based uses of force (including detention). Indeed, JCS Chairman General Dempsey has previously said that the AUMF could not be used to target those responsible for the Benghazi attacks (see Steve’s previous post at Lawfare for more on that point, as well this Politico article from Josh Gerstein). 

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Thomas Earnest

Former Managing Editor of Just Security (2013-14) Follow him on Twitter (@thomasdearnest).