A suspected member of al-Qaeda who had recently been designated a global terrorist by the United States has been detained in Jordan. The United States is also investigating whether he played a role in the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi.
U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, identified the man as Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a Libyan national. Details about his capture and what charges he could face in the United States remain unclear.
Turkish news media reported that Azzouz was captured Nov. 13 in an operation in Yalova, which is about 100 miles south of Istanbul, and that he was later deported to Jordan.
Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper said the CIA provided the tip that led to his arrest.
The CIA declined to comment.
In recent years, the Obama administration has brought a number of alleged terrorists to this country after capture by the U.S. or through extradition.
Azzouz has not been named in any public statements or reports about those sought in connection with the Benghazi attacks. Although the State Department designated Azzouz as a terrorist, it is not known if there are any criminal charges against him that would facilitate his extradition to the United States.
A likely venue for any criminal proceedings would be federal court in New York. FBI spokesman Peter Donald in New York declined to comment.
One official stressed that U.S. intelligence was still examining whether Azzouz had a role in the Benghazi attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In September, the State Department designated Azzouz a global terrorist. The State Department said he has also lived in Afghanistan and Britain.
As part of the designation, the United States said Azzouz was sent home by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2011 to build a fighting force in Libya, mobilizing about 200 fighters.
“He is considered a key operative capable of training al-Qaeda recruits in a variety of skills, such as IED [improvised explosive device] construction,” according to the State Department.
Seth Jones, an analyst at the Rand Corp., said Azzouz probably has minimal information about where Zawahiri is hiding but could provide a clearer picture of the terrorist groups operating in Libya.
“He’s got a lot of information that could be useful on how al-Qaeda is structured, its broader strategy and operations,” he said.
Azzouz isn’t the first known al-Qaeda operative suspected of going to Libya in recent years.
Officials said there was intelligence that Thirwat Shihata, an Egyptian who was Zawahiri’s deputy at one point, traveled to Libya after he was allowed to leave Iran, where he had been since 2003.
Azzouz lived in Britain and was known to police but left the country in 2009 for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Authorities in Britain had briefly detained Azzouz before letting him go, according to news reports.