CNN Interviewed Alleged Benghazi Ringleader Nearly a Year Before Capture
Natalie Johnson /
Why did it take nearly two years to track down the alleged leader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks when multiple journalists had contact with him prior to his capture?
CNN’s Senior International Reporter Arwa Damon met Ahmed Abu Khattala nearly a year ago in a public hotel coffee shop to talk about the Benghazi attacks. Damon described Khattala as “very confident” that he was not being tracked down by American forces despite the fact that he knew the United States considered him a “person of interest.”
“This is not a man who was in hiding,” Damon told CNN in an interview. “I was the first television correspondent to speak to him, but he had spoken to one or two other print outlets beforehand. He did not feel the need to secure himself other than with this small unit of Libyan forces.”
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Khattala told Damon that he would speak to U.S. authorities if they reached out to him so long as he was not interrogated.
“He was very clear to specify that—‘I will not be interrogated by them, but if they want to come talk to me I will talk to them,’” Damon said.
According to Damon, Khattala was “quite outspoken” about the Benghazi attack and made “no effort” to hide his feelings about Americans. Despite this, Khattala accused the United States of not making a strong enough attempt to contact the “appropriate” people in Libya.
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When asked to “explain the gap” between the timing of this week’s capture and her interview with Khattala, Damon pointed to “a number of factors,” stating that the United States didn’t have the “reach” it needed in order to go into Libya to get him.