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U.S. forces capture militant key in Benghazi attack, officials say

Benghazi suspect captured
U.S. forces capture suspect in Benghazi attack 00:24

WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials say special operations forces have captured a key militant in the 2012 Benghazi attack on a U.S. consulate that left four Americans dead, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin confirms.

A U.S. official identified the suspect as Mustafa al-Imam, Martin reports.

The commandos captured the man in Libya just before midnight local time on Sunday and are transporting him back to the U.S., officials told The Associated Press. The suspect is in the custody of the Department of Justice and is expected to arrive within the next two days on a military plane, according to one of the officials.

The officials said the mission was approved by President Donald Trump and done in coordination with Libya's internationally recognized government. The officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly to the matter and demanded anonymity, would not say where exactly he was captured.

In a statement Monday, Mr. Trump said al-Imam will face justice for his alleged role in the attack.

"To the families of these fallen heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten," Mr. Trump said. 

The Sept. 2012 assault killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, U.S. State Department computer expert Sean Smith and CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Stevens and Smith died in the burning diplomatic outpost despite efforts to rescue them. Woods and Doherty died nearly eight hours later in a mortar attack on a nearby CIA complex.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement Monday that he was "deeply grateful" to the U.S. military and the intelligence community for capturing the militant. The statement said the "Department of State family continues to mourn" the four Americans killed in the attack and that officials "will spare no effort to ensure that justice is served."

"I spoke with some of their family members to underscore the U.S. government's unwavering support," Tillerson said in the statement.

Earlier this month, another man accused in the attack, Abu Khattala, went on trial in federal court in Washington. Khattala has pleaded not guilty to the 18 charges against him, including murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists and destroying U.S. property while causing death.

The attack was the fodder of multiple congressional investigations to determine what went wrong and whether the Obama administration misled the public on the details of the bloody assault.

Initial accounts provided by administration officials, notably former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, said the attack had grown out of a protest against an anti-Muslim internet film. Later, the administration said it was a planned terrorist attack.

Trial begins for suspect in 2012 Benghazi attack 01:50

A two-year investigation by a House Benghazi committee focused heavily on Clinton's role and whether security at the compounds and the response to the attack was sufficient. It was the Benghazi probe that revealed Clinton used a private email server for government work, prompting an FBI investigation that proved to be an albatross in her presidential campaign.

The assault started in the evening when armed attackers scaled the wall of a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and moved through the front gate. Stevens was rushed to a fortified "safe room" along with Smith, but were then siphoned off from security officers when attackers set the building and its furniture on fire. Libyan civilians found Stevens hours later in the wreckage, but he died of smoke inhalation in the hospital, becoming the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty in more than three decades.

The CIA annex was then attacked by mortar fire, killing Woods and Doherty who were defending its rooftop.

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