Suspected Leader of Libya Attack Still at Large

Libyan security officials say Ahmed Abu Khattalah was at the scene: WSJ

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 17, 2012 3:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – Libyan security officials say Ahmed Abu Khattalah, founder of Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia, was at the US consulate in Libya during the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens—the most direct link between the militia and the attack so far, though officials have been focusing on Ansar al-Sharia for a while. Yet, more than a week after Libyan leaders and US investigators learned Khattalah was allegedly at the consulate during the attack, he remains free, the Wall Street Journal reports. The two officials who say Khattalah was there—and submitted evidence to that effect—also say they have not been given orders to arrest him.

That fact will likely not go over well in the US, where the White House is already embroiled in controversy over its response to the attack, the Journal notes. "There's no doubt the sheik was there," says one of these officials, using the title Khattalah's followers use. "If the sheik was there, then the sheik was giving commands. That's how the group operates." But Ansar al-Sharia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack. The news of Khattalah's alleged whereabouts comes amid other complications in Libya: The FBI is attempting to investigate the consulate attack from 400 miles away, because of instability in Benghazi, and some Libyan witnesses have criticized the FBI for not protecting them after they came forward.

A Libyan follower of Ansar al-Sharia Brigades carries a placard reads in Arabic our Islamic holies are red line, during a protest in front of the Tibesti Hotel, in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 14, 2012.
A Libyan follower of Ansar al-Sharia Brigades carries a placard reads in Arabic "our Islamic holies are red line," during a protest in front of the Tibesti Hotel, in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 14, 2012.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
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