Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

The US Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames after the attack on September 11, 2012. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 January 2020

Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

  • Al-Imam is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel
  • The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison

NEW YORK: A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
A jury convicted Mustafa Al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the US compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts.
The attacks, aimed at killing American personnel, prompted a political fracas in which Republicans accused the Obama administration of a bungled response.
Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars. He is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.
The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Khattala was accused of driving to the diplomatic mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and breaching the main gate with militants who attacked with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.
The initial attack killed Stevens and Smith and set the mission ablaze. Woods and Doherty were later killed at a CIA annex.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Washington asked US District Judge Christopher Cooper to send a message to others contemplating attacks on Americans overseas, saying Al-Imam deserved the maximum 35-year sentence.
“In the current geopolitical environment, terrorists must understand that there are harsh consequences for attacking diplomatic posts and harming US personnel — particularly a US ambassador,” Assistant US Attorney John Cummings wrote in a court filing.
Defense attorneys said Al-Imam made a “tremendous mistake” by damaging and looting US property after the attacks. But they insisted there was no evidence he intended to harm any Americans, noting jurors could not reach a verdict on the murder charges Al-Imam faced.
“Mustafa Al-Imam is a frail, uneducated and simple man,” they wrote in a court filing. “He is not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family.”
Al-Imam was tried in a civilian court despite the Trump administration’s earlier contention that such suspects are better sent to Guantanamo Bay. His arrest, five years after the attack, was the first publicly known operation since President Donald Trump took office targeting those accused of involvement in Benghazi.
Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Al-Imam “directly caused” the killings at the US compounds. But they said he aligned himself with Khattala and acted as his “eyes and ears” at the height of the attacks.
During a four-week trial in Washington, prosecutors pointed to phone records that showed Al-Imam was in the vicinity of the mission and placed an 18-minute call to Khattala during a “pivotal moment” of the attacks.
Al-Imam also entered the US compound, prosecutors said, and took sensitive material that identified the location of the CIA annex about a mile away from the mission as the evacuation point for Department of State personnel.
In interviews with law enforcement following his 2017 capture in Misrata, Libya, he admitted stealing a phone and map from the US mission.


Protective of religious beards, Israel to produce fitted face masks

Updated 06 April 2020

Protective of religious beards, Israel to produce fitted face masks

  • As part of measures to combat the epidemic, Israeli authorities last week told people to cover their mouths and noses in public
  • A spokesman for Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has said it might consider issuing a ruling permitting religious Jews to shave

JERUSALEM: Israelis who have beards for religious reasons will get the option of custom-made face masks to protect them from the coronavirus rather than being told to shave, a government official said on Monday.
As part of measures to combat the epidemic, Israeli authorities last week told people to cover their mouths and noses in public.
Many of the country’s Jews and Muslims, and some Christian clergymen, wear beards as a mark of faith, and the order raised questions as to how facial hair would be accommodated.
Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto said masks would be adapted accordingly.
“We are creating an industrial certification for masks, which means that in a few days there will really be masks of different sizes,” he told Army Radio.
.”..(So) those with beards will be able to use the appropriate masks.”
A spokesman for Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has said it might consider issuing a ruling permitting religious Jews to shave if the ministry were to deem it necessary.
Grotto said seeking a rabbinical dispensation to remove facial hair was “not on the agenda right now.”