WASHINGTON — One year after the attacks in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, the Justice Department has indicted suspects, intelligence officials have a general idea of where they are hiding, and the military’s top-secret Joint Special Operations Command has been compiling detailed information on suspects in the event President Barack Obama orders some form of action against them.
But the fledgling Libyan government, which has little to no control over significant parts of the country, has rebuffed the Obama administration’s efforts to arrest the suspects.
Obama promised the day after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks to bring the killers to justice, and some military and law enforcement officials have grown frustrated with what they believe is the White House’s unwillingness to pressure the Libyan government to make the arrests or allow American forces to do so, the New York Times reports
Obama acknowledged last month at a news conference that the suspects had been charged but were still on the loose. One of them, Ahmed Khattala, has been interviewed by several American news media outlets but remains free.
Several senior FBI officials and members of its. team based in Tripoli, Libya, who have been building the investigation for the past year, say new FBI Director James B. Comey must press the White House — and the president who appointed him — to lean on Libyan authorities.
“Whether he likes it or not, he is going to have to deal with this issue,” said a former senior American official, referring to Comey. “There’s a huge frustration on the issue among the agents about why nothing has happened to these guys who have killed Americans.”
Federal law-enforcement authorities have filed murder charges against Khattala, a militia leader in Benghazi, in connection with the attacks and have identified several other participants. Charges have been filed under seal against some of them.
Some senior Obama administration and law-enforcement officials would like Libya to arrest and try the suspects because they do not want the United States to be seen as interfering with another country’s sovereignty. But with militias controlling much of eastern Libya, that may not be possible logistically or politically, the Times reported.
Among the obstacles the FBI has encountered in Libya has been a reluctance by some police and government officials there to target members of Ansar al-Shariah, a local Islamist group whose fighters joined the attack. Government officials in Benghazi have said it would be impossible for lightly armed Libyan forces to arrest militia members.
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