Witnesses and the authorities fingered Ahmed Abu Khattala as a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, were U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic staffers were killed.
However, days after President Obama repeated his vow to mete justice on those responsible, Khattala was seated on a luxury hotel patio poking fun at comments coming from U.S. and Libyan government officials.
Khattala dismissed the possibility of the weak Libyan government possibly heading an investigation and accused U.S. leaders of "playing with the emotions of the American people" and "using the consulate attack just to gather votes for their elections," the Times said.
Khattala also gave his version of what happened Sept. 11 to the Times, which contradicts information given by witnesses and the most recent account provided by the Obama administration. Khattala said the attack grew out of a peaceful protest against a U.S.-made video that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
He also said guards inside the compound fired first at the demonstrators, provoking them.
Also without providing support, he said the attackers had found weapons inside the compound, the Times said.
While Khattala's role remains unclear, witnesses said they saw him directing other fighters on the night of the attack, and Libyan and U.S. officials said they are looking into what role, if any, he played. Khattala said he arrived as the gunfire was beginning and tried to move traffic along near the demonstration.
He told the Times he entered the compound as the fighting was winding down because he was asked to help in a rescue effort of four Libyan guards trapped inside.
In Washington, a Republican member of the House committee investigating the attack dismissed Khattala's account.
"It just sounds fishy to say you are on the scene and not participating," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said. "It was pitch black at 9:40 at night."
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