When U.S. commandos grabbed a former al Qaeda operative in Tripoli this month, American forces were just hours away from potentially launching a more dangerous covert raid to capture a militia figure facing charges in the deadly Benghazi terror attack, U.S. officials tell CNN.
U.S. special operations forces were ready, if ordered, to enter Benghazi and capture Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a leading figure in the Ansar Al-Sharia militia.
“But when all of the turmoil happened, the concern became that the U.S. activity might be so destabilizing to the fragile Libyan government and they had to hold back,” CNN’s Barbara Starr reports. “The mission didn’t happen.”
The United States believes Ansar Al-Sharia was behind the September 2012 armed assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
President Barack Obama has openly said it is a "priority" to bring the Benghazi suspects "to justice." The FBI continues to investigate the attack and Khattalah is under federal indictment, CNN's Evan Perez has reported.