Top Qaeda leader nabbed in US raid in Libya

Written by New York Times | Published on:October 6, 2013 12:45 am

A day after American commandos carried out raids in two African countries aimed at capturing fugitive terrorist suspects,Libya’s interim government on Sunday demanded an explanation from Washington for what it called the “kidnapping” of a Libyan suspect.

On Saturday,American troops assisted by FBI and CIA agents seized Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai,known by his nom de guerre,Abu Anas al-Liby,a suspected leader of al-Qaeda,on the streets of Tripoli,Libya,while a Navy SEAL team raided the seaside villa of a militant leader in a predawn firefight on the coast of Somalia.

Abu Anas was indicted in 2000 for his role in the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Konya and Tanzania and had a $5 million bounty on his head.

Officials said the timing of the two raids was coincidental. But occurring on the same day,they underscored the rise of northern Africa as a haven for international terrorists. Libya has collapsed into the control of a patchwork of militias since the ouster of the Gaddafi government in 2011. Somalia,the birthplace of the Shabab,has lacked an effective central government for more than two decades.

Abu Anas,the Libyan Qaeda leader,was considered a major prize,and officials said he was alive in American custody. While the details about his capture were sketchy,an American official said on Saturday night that it appeared he had been taken peacefully and that he was “no longer in Libya.”

His capture was the latest blow to what remains of the original Qaeda organisation after a 12-year American campaign to capture or kill its leadership,including the killing two years ago of its founder,Osama bin Laden,in Pakistan.

But on Sunday,Libya’s government called for more information regarding the American operation. “As soon as it heard the reports,the Libyan government contacted the United States authorities to demand an explanation” for “the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen,” the government said in a statement.

The demand appeared to contradict the statements of American officials on Saturday that the Libyan government had played some role in the seizure of Abu Anas. By noon,calls had begun for street protests against the raid or against the interim government for allowing it.

A Pentagon spokesman,George Little,defended the raid. “These actions are a clear sign that the United States is committed to using all the tools at our disposal to bring to justice those who commit terrorist acts against Americans,” he said.

Despite his presence in Libya,Abu Anas was not believed to have played any role in the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi,senior officials briefed on that investigation have said,but he may have sought to build networks connecting what remains of the Qaeda organisation to like-minded militants in Libya.

His brother Nabih told The Associated Press that just after dawn prayers on Saturday,three vehicles full of armed men approached Abu Anas’s home and surrounded him as he parked his car. The men smashed his window,seized his gun and sped away with him,Nabih said.

Abu Anas,49,was born in Tripoli and joined Qaeda as early as the early 1990s,when it was based in Sudan.

The operation to capture Abu Anas was several weeks in …continued »

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