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U.S. could seize 5 in Benghazi attack

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The United States has identified five men who might be responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and has enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists, officials say.

But there isn't enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama administration prefers.

The men remain at large while the FBI gathers evidence. But the investigation has been slowed by the reduced U.S. intelligence presence in the region since the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, and by the limited ability to assist by Libya's post-revolutionary law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which are still in their infancy since the overthrow of dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The decision not to seize the men militarily underscores the White House aim to move away from hunting terrorists as enemy combatants and holding them at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The preference is toward a process in which most are apprehended and tried by the countries where they are living or arrested by the United States with the host country's cooperation and tried in the American criminal justice system.

The choice might indicate a fear that using military force to detain the men would harm fledgling relations with Libya and other post-Arab-Spring governments with whom the United States is trying to build partnerships to hunt al-Qaida as the organization expands throughout the region.

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