Ahmed Khattalah first charged in Benghazi embassy attack


A Libyan rebel fighter holds a knife as he waves the revolution flag in a street of Benghazi on March 19, 2011.


Patrick Baz

Ahmed Khattalah, a Libyan militia leader who admitted to being in Benghazi last Sept. 11, has become the first person charged in connection with the deadly attack on the US consulate.

CNN reported Tuesday that the Justice Department and FBI had charged Khattalah, although few details have emerged beyond that. The case remains sealed.

Prosecutors have long suspected Khattalah, Reuters reported, and Libyan authorities named him in the weeks following the attack.

Militants and protesters swarmed the compound and killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff. The attacks came amid protests around the region against a low-budget, anti-Islam movie. It remains unclear what connection the attack had to any protests in Libya.

Khattalah admitted his was in Benghazi on the night in question, but said he didn't organize the violence.

He proved his innocence, he said, by speaking openly with reporters while refuting claims he was in hiding.

"These reports say that no one knows where I am and that I am hiding," Khattalah told Reuters last October. "But here I am in the open, sitting in a hotel with you. I'm even going to pick up my sister's kids from school soon."

He's the leader of the Ansar al-Sharia militia which promotes extremist ideology similar to Al Qaeda, according to a Wall Street Journal profile.

The FBI's charges come against a group of people, not just Khattalah, according to The Journal.

It is unlikely the charges will stem criticism against the White House, however.

President Barack Obama's administration was widely slammed for fumbling its security before the attacks, and its handling afterward.

More from GlobalPost: Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of Benghazi attack, denies involvement