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By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. forces captured a militant who is believed to have played a role in a 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the White House said on Monday.

The militant was identified as Mustafa al-Imam, and the Justice Department said he was charged in connection with the attack and the killing of Americans.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that U.S. Special Operations Forces captured al-Imam in Libya in the past few days.

The officials said the man was now in the custody of the Justice Department and being transported to the United States by the military.

They added that the operation was authorized by President Donald Trump, and the United States notified the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord in Libya.

In a statement, Trump said al-Imam "will face justice in the United States for his alleged role in the September 11, 2012 attacks."

Al-Imam has been charged with "killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility" and providing "material support to terrorists resulting in death," the Justice Department said in a statement.

He will appear before a federal judge in Washington when he arrives in the United States, it said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the United States would continue to investigate and identify those who were involved in the attack.

The appropriate congressional committees and the families of the Americans killed in the 2012 attack were also notified, the officials said.

The attack on the embassy was the topic of numerous congressional hearings, with Republican lawmakers critical of the way in which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the attack.

Earlier this month, U.S. prosecutors opened their case against the suspected ringleader, Ahmed Abu Khatallah.

Khatallah had been awaiting trial since 2014, when he was captured by a team of U.S. military and FBI officials in Libya and transported on a 13-day journey to the United States aboard a Navy vessel.

After being forced from their former stronghold in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in December 2016, Islamic State militants have shifted to desert valleys and inland hills southeast of Tripoli as they seek to exploit Libya’s political divisions. The country has been rocked by instability since leader Muammar Gaddafi’s 2011 downfall.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman)

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