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The suspected ringleader of the September 2012 raid on a US diplomatic post in the Libyan city of Benghazi, which left four Americans dead, has been captured, the Pentagon says.

US Navy seals in action
US Navy seals in action

Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into custody in a secret US military raid in Libya on 15 June.

He is now being held in a secure location outside the country, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in the attack.

“There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all US personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby wrote in a statement.

He refused to give further details about the US raid, only to say it happened “near Benghazi” and on Sunday afternoon US east coast time.

After the announcement, President Barack Obama praised the courage and professionalism of the military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel who tracked and captured Mr Abu Khattala, whom the US describes as a “key figure” in the attack.

“When Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice,” he said

The FBI Director, James Comey, said his organisation would not stop searching until the other suspects were found.

“We never ever give up and we will work and work until justice is done. And I think this is a down payment on that statement.”

Mr Abu Khattala has been charged in a federal court in Washington DC with killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility, providing material support to terrorists, and a firearms count, court records show.

He is currently being held on a US ship, Reuters reports. Some Republicans, including Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain, have argued he should be sent to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay. But US officials rejected that move.

“We have not added a single person to the GTMO population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and been criticised by Republicans over the embassy’s security arrangements, said questioning Khatalla could shed some light on what happened and why.

On 11 September 2012, gunmen stormed the US consulate in Benghazi and set it on fire.

In addition to Mr Stevens, information technology specialist Sean Smith and security workers and ex-Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.

The White House initially said the attack stemmed from anti-American protests over a crude video produced in the US that was deemed insulting to Islam.

BBC News