Libyan militant accused of 'masterminding' Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead is ACQUITTED of murder
- Ahmed Abu Khatalla was accused of masterminding the 2011 terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya
- Attack left four Americans dead, including?Ambassador Chris Stevens
- Khatalla was facing the death penalty?and 18 charges including murder and terrorism
- But on Tuesday, a jury acquitted him on all but four of those charges
- He still faces up to 60 years in prison after being found guilty of terrorism charges including conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism
A jury on Tuesday acquitted a Libyan militant of murder charges in connection with a 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya which left four Americans dead.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah was accused of being a ringleader in the September 11, 2012 attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US nationals.
He?was charged with 18 counts ranging from murder and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and maliciously damaging and destroying U.S. property.?
He was facing multiple death penalty charges for the 2012 attack.?
Ahmed Abu Khatalla (left, on his arrest, and right) was acquitted on the most serious charges in connection with a 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya
But on Tuesday he was acquitted on all but four of those charges, according to media reports.?
He still faces up to 60 years in prison after being found guilty of terrorism charges including conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, he was not found responsible for?the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Khatalla, 46, was captured by US special forces in June 2014 and shipped to the US on?a naval vessel, where he was held in Alexandra, Virginia.??
According to prosecutors, Khattala drove to the diplomatic mission with other militants and a group of about 20 breached the main gate and later launched an attack with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.?
Ahmed Abu Khatallah was accused of being a ringleader in the September 11, 2012 attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens (pictured) and three other US nationals.
A courtroom sketch depicts Ahmed Abu Khattala listening to a interpreter through earphones during the opening statement by assistant U.S. attorney John Crabb, second from left, at his trial in October?
That initial attack killed Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith and set the mission ablaze.
Prosecutors say Khattala supervised the plunder of sensitive information from that building, then returned to a camp in Benghazi where a large group began assembling for an attack on a second building known as the annex.
The attack on that facility, including a precision mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty, authorities say.
During his trial over the past two months, the government introduced evidence, from phone records showing that the defendant made calls to his associates right before they were captured on grainy videos participating in the attack, to testimony from a variety of witnesses.
One witness who testified was a man identified by the pseudonym Ali Majrisi.
Majrisi was paid $7 million by the government to befriend Khatallah, gather evidence against him and eventually lure him to the place where he was captured by U.S. forces.
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012?
Ahmed Abu Khatallah faced the death penalty and 18 charges for the attack. Pictured, a vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012?
The jury at the trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also heard emotional testimony from State Department and CIA officials, who spoke in detail about how Stevens and the other three Americans died.
'You have not heard that he lit the match,' prosecutor Michael DiLorenzo said Thursday. 'You have not heard that he fired the mortars.'
But he is 'equally as guilty,' he said, because a co-conspirator is liable for any crimes deemed to be a 'reasonable, foreseeable consequence' of a conspiracy.
Khatallah's lawyer, Michelle Peterson, told jury members on Thursday that the government was trying to play on their emotions to win a conviction, when in fact the evidence of the case did not prove his guilt. She suggested that the witnesses paid by the government with a 'bag of cash' were not credible.
'They want you to hate him,' she said. 'Mr. Abu Khatallah is not guilty of these charges.'?
In the attack's immediate aftermath, then-president Barack Obama and his administration officials, said initially that the attack was a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video that had surfaced in the United States.
Evidence later emerged that U.S. agencies had been warning for months about weak security and possible attacks against U.S. facilities in Libya. Evidence also emerged that soon after the attack, the United States had strong reason to believe that organized militant groups had been involved.
In media interviews before his capture by U.S. forces, Khatallah denied involvement in the attacks against a compound used by the State Department as a consular office and a nearby compound used by the CIA as its Benghazi base.
The new U.S. indictment alleges Khatallah had been the commander of an militant Islamist militia called Ubaydah bin Jarrah. That group later merged with another Libyan group called Ansar al Sharia, and Khatallah became one of its Benghazi-based leaders, U.S. authorities said.
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