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Delta Force - Benghazi Capture Op

On June 15th 2014, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) carried out a surgical snatch and grab operation in Libya. Their quarry was Ahmed Abu Khattala.

AL-Libi
Ahmed Abu Khattala

Khattala commanded Ansar al-Sharia militia, an Islamic militia pushing for the introduction of strict Sharia law across Libya. He is suspected of being involved in the September 11th 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which a U.S. Ambassador and 3 other Americans were killed.

When Khattala returned to his residence near Benghazi, U.S. commandos were lying in wait. A force of some two dozen Delta Force operators, supported by surveillance drones had infiltrated into position, primed to capture Khattala. A number of FBI agents with the bureau's elite Hostage Rescue Team were embedded into the Delta Force teams.

The FBI operators were their due to the preference by the Obama administration to prosecute captured terrorists via the criminal justice system, rather than in military courts. This policy also explains why Khattala's arrest took so long to be carried out. The Department Of Justice needed time to ensure the subsequent prosecution would have the best chance of succeeding. The delay was frustrating and bothersome for many. Khattala appeared brazenly on Libyan television, giving interviews. The location of his compound was an open secret.

One upside to the long wait before the operation was green-lighted was that it gave Delta Force ample time to prepare. Delta Force operators had been practising the mission in a specially-built mock up of Khattala's compound for months. The stronghold was likely to be heavily guarded, with a number of armed personnel inside.

In the months of rehearsals, the Delta assault team would have practised a large number of different scenarios, from a bloodless snatch-and-grab to a full out assault involving a heavy fire fight against fanatical defenders. When the day came, it appears that Delta were able to achieve the bloodless option.

Details of the operation are few, but reports suggest that elements of the Delta Force / FBI task force were able to trick their way into the target compound. It's not clear if they talked their way inside then brought Khattala out, or if they persuaded their quarry to come to the door himself, facilitating his capture.

It appears that no shots were fired during the operation. No civilians were injured and the mission force all returned safely. Khattala was whisked away to a waiting U.S. Navy warship.

USS New York
Al Khattala was taken to the USS New York, a Landing Platform Dock. Commissioned in 2009. the USS New York was constructed, in part, from steel recovered from the World Trade Center ruins.
U.S. Navy Photo

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