Libya approves U.S. operations to get Benghazi suspects
October 9th, 2013
11:17 PM ET

Libya approves U.S. operations to get Benghazi suspects

By Barbara Starr

The Libyan government has given the United States "tacit approval" to conduct missions inside Libya to capture suspects involved in the terror attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

The official has direct knowledge of the arrangements but declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Approval for action against Benghazi suspects, which was granted in recent weeks, is the same type of agreement that allowed a U.S. raid this past weekend in Tripoli.

In that operation, Army Delta Forces captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda operative wanted for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

Under these approvals, key Libyan government officials are aware of potential U.S. operations but may not know the exact timing and place of a mission.

This means the United States could at any point decide to conduct a Benghazi operation using intelligence and military operatives in the region.

CNN previously reported the United States has a target list of Benghazi suspects the Obama administration has tracked through intelligence.

Tracking efforts include drone surveillance and operatives, who have moved in and out of Libya in recent months.

A federal indictment in August charged several suspects in connection with the September 11, 2012, armed assault on the Benghazi mission that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, sources told CNN at the time.

The indictment remains under seal, but the sources have said that prominent Libyan militia figure Ahmed Abu Khattala was among those charged. Khattala has recently lived openly in Benghazi and has been interviewed by CNN's Arwa Damon.

U.S. officials said the raid to capture al Libi and any mission related to Benghazi are considered separate events.

The al Libi raid was supposed to remain secret for several days, but it became public almost immediately when al Libi's family in Libya said he had been abducted.

The disclosure of that mission raised questions about whether a Benghazi mission to get Khattala is still possible given the revelation that American commandos entered Libya to get al Libi.

CNN reported on Saturday that the al Libi operation was conducted with the knowledge of the Libyan government, according to a U.S. official.

Some details of the Libyan arrangements with the United States were first reported by the New York Times.

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