U.S. forces have captured a suspected leader of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist strike in Benghazi, Libya, the first successful attempt by the Obama administration to detain a key figure in the deadly attack.
The White House, long on the defensive for failing to apprehend any of the Benghazi suspects, trumpeted the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala.
"With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans," President Obama said Tuesday. "We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks."
There were no civilian casualties tied to the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the secret mission Sunday have since left Libya, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said, confirming the story first reported by The Washington Post.
U.S. military and law enforcement officials conducted the operation, he added.
Khattala is among more than a dozen people charged in connection with the Benghazi incident — and the first to face a trial in the U.S.
The White House initially blamed the violence on a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam video before conceding that the strike was a terrorist plot. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed during the attack.
"We will continue to honor our fallen by carrying on their efforts in support of the Libyan people’s aspirations to live in a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society," Obama said.
Khattala is reportedly aboard a naval ship en route to the U.S., but Kirby said only that the suspect was "in a secure location outside of Libya."
Some Republicans, however, were quick to criticize the administration for its handling of Khattala.
"Holding Khattala on a ship shows the haphazard approach which comes from not having rational detention & interrogation policies," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on his Twitter account.
Graham, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued that Khattala should be held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Other GOP leaders offered rare praise for the White House.
"It is obviously good news that this terrorist is now in American custody, and I am grateful for the work of our military — assisted by the FBI — in capturing him," said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "I look forward to hearing more details regarding the raid, and I expect the administration to give our military professionals time to properly gather any useful intelligence he has."
This story was first posted at 11:55 a.m. and has since been updated.