The U.S. government has captured what it's calling 'a key figure' in the attacks two years ago on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
American military and law enforcement personnel operating in Libya captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, who has secretly been indicted in the U.S. for his alleged role in the attacks.
Khattala, who was captured Sunday, is now in 'a secure location outside of Libya,' and no civilians or U.S. personnel were harmed in the operation, according to a statement today from a Pentagon spokesman. Two U.S. officials said he is being held on a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean.
Khattala is expected to be questioned by a special team of U.S. interrogators for potential intelligence leads for the next few hours or possibly days, senior U.S. officials told ABC News, but eventually he will be tried in federal court in Washington, D.C.
A one-page criminal complaint
against Khattala, unsealed today, accuses the militant of 'killing a person in the course of an action on a federal facility,' providing and conspiring to provide 'material support to terrorists resulting in death' and using a firearm in relation to a violent crime. Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. reserves the right to add charges 'in the coming days.'
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the capture of Abu Khattala marks an 'important milestone' in the search for those who perpetrated the attack in Benghazi.
'We have made it clear since that cowardly attack on our facility that we would go to any length to find, apprehend, bring to justice those who perpetrated it and were responsible for the deaths of four Americans,' Carney just told reporters aboard Air Force One. 'The capture of Abu Khattala is not the end of that effort, but it marks an important milestone.'
Carney would not offer any additional details on Khattala's capture.
Since the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, the Obama administration and top law enforcement officials have faced harsh criticism over the failure to capture anyone involved in the attack. Part of the criticism has focused on the fact that some reporters have been able to conduct in-person interviews with Khattala and suspects but the U.S. government had appeared unable to do the same.
Testifying before a House panel last week, FBI Director James Comey said he takes 'the Benghazi matter very, very seriously,' and it is something the FBI has 'made progress on.'
'One thing you got to know about the FBI, we never give up,' Comey added. 'So sometimes things take longer than we'd like them to but they never go into an inactive bin.'
Holder said in a statement today that the U.S. has 'conducted a thorough, unrelenting investigation, across continents, to find the perpetrators' and he 'pledged' to identify and arrest any co-conspirators.
'This is our pledge; we owe it to the victims of the Benghazi attack and their loved ones nothing less,' he said.
Last October an elite American Army Delta Force team snatched another terrorist suspect
off the streets of Tripoli. That man, known as Anas al-Libi, was held aboard a Navy ship where he was interrogated by the U.S. government's High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG).