* Arrest of Benghazi suspect highly politically sensitive
* Foreign ministry: arrest an "attack on Libyan sovereignty"
* Libyan government had no prior notification, minister says
(Adds details, quotes, background)
By Ulf Laessing and Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI, June 18 Libya condemned the United
States on Wednesday for snatching a man suspected of
masterminding the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in
Benghazi, describing the arrest as a violation of Libyan
President Barack Obama authorised Sunday's operation in
which U.S. special forces captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah in Libya
for transfer to the United States.
The action is very sensitive for the weak Libyan government
which is under pressure from various militias, Islamists and
armed tribesmen who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in a
NATO-backed uprising in 2011 but defy state authority in the
vast desert country.
In the first official reaction from Tripoli, Justice
Minister Saleh al-Marghani said Khatallah should be returned to
Libya and tried there.
"We had no prior notification," Marghani told a news
conference. "We expect the world to help us with security. We
expected the United States to help us, but we did not expect the
United States to upset the political scene."
He said Khatallah had been wanted by Libyan authorities for
questioning but they had been unable to arrest him due to the
Diplomats say Libya has done next to nothing to make arrests
over the 2012 consulate attack in which four Americans died, as
the government has little sway in Libya's second-largest city.
Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Said al Saoud said: "This
attack on Libyan sovereignty happened at a time when Benghazi is
suffering from many problems." He asked that Khatallah receive a
The September 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in
Benghazi, since closed, killed four Americans including the U.S.
ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
A similar U.S. special forces operation, grabbing al Qaeda
suspect Nazih al-Ragye, better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, in
Tripoli in October 2013 had drastic consequences for the
A militia briefly kidnapped the then prime minister, Ali
Zeidan, from his hotel suite, accusing him of having known about
Al-Liby was later charged in a U.S. federal court in New
York in connection with the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in
Kenya, which killed more than 200 people.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)