The mysterious lone photograph of Ahmed Abu Khattala, alleged Benghazi ringleader

Suspected Benghazi attack ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala, captured this weekend in Libya by U.S. Special Operations forces, wasn't publicity shy before his arrest. In fact, he seemed to enjoy his infamy. 

Even after he was accused of leading the attack that led to the death of  U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, he drank a strawberry frappe with the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick and sipped mango juice with CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer. The Times of London's Anthony Loyd even drank tea in his home.

For all this publicity, however, one thing remained closed off: Abu Khattala was apparently not photographed or filmed in these encounters. In fact, The Post was only able to find one photograph of Abu Khattala. Here it is:


Portrait of Ahmed Abu Khattala, that has been independently confirmed by two sources to The Washington Post. Photo was taken from a Facebook page.

The photograph has appeared on social media, shared on what appears to be an anti-Islamist Benghazi-devoted Facebook page earlier this month, and was tweeted by Mary Fitzgerald, an Irish journalist based in Libya, on Tuesday. Nizar Sarieldin, an Egyptian journalist working in Libya with The Post's Erin Cunningham, interviewed Abu Khattala in 2013 and has confirmed this picture shows him. Another source was also able to confirm this was Abu Khattala.

The origin of the photo remains unclear, however. Abu Khattala is in his early 40s, and the photograph appears to show flecks of grey in his beard. The mugshot-esque nature of the photo, and the blue, uniform-like shirt suggests it may have been taken while Abu Khattala served time in prison during Moammar Gaddafi's reign. Whatever its origin, it's an exceedingly rare photograph. Sarieldin confirmed that Abu Khattala refused to be photographed when he met him. Even if he enjoyed his notoriety, he didn't want his appearance publicized.

Related:

Ahmed Abu Khattala has been charged with three counts of involvement in the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Here's what will likely happen next. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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