International

Libya demands answers after US seizes Al-Qaeda leader in Tripoli

PM questions 'kidnapping' of Libyan citizen; Somalia indicates willingness to fight Al-Qaeda after US raid

The rubble of the U.S. embassy in Kenya is seen in 1998 after an attack, which the U.S. alleges was partially planned by Anas al-Liby (inset).
Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images; Inset: FBI

The Libyan government demanded Sunday that Washington explain the “kidnapping” of an alleged Al-Qaeda suspect in Tripoli, a day after U.S. forces conducted two raids on targets in African countries.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that the White House was pleased with the missions' outcome adding that the Navy SEAL operation in Libya and Somalia made clear that America “will never stop the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror.”

But anger in Libya, coupled with an apparent failure to capture or kill the intended Al-Shabab target in Somalia, has seemingly dented U.S. claims of a success, and led to questions over Washington’s decision to carry out the raids without the host nation’s knowledge.

The raid in Tripoli saw the capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Liby, an alleged senior Libyan Al-Qaeda figure wanted by the United States for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Ali Zeidan, Libya's prime minister, suggested on Sunday that his government was not informed of the plan before U.S. commandos seized the suspect.

"The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by U.S. authorities," Zeidan said in a statement. "The Libyan government has contacted U.S. authorities to ask them to provide an explanation."

Al-Liby, was parked outside his house in Tripoli early Saturday following dawn prayers, when personnel in three vehicles encircled him, smashed his car's window and seized his gun before grabbing him and fleeing, al-Liby’s brother Nabih told the Associated Press. The AP identified those involved in the action as members of the U.S. Army's Delta Force unit.

The raid was later confirmed by the U.S Department of Defense.

"As a result of the Libya operation, one of the world's most wanted terrorists was captured and is now in U.S. custody," U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon.

The raid in Libya coincided with an attempt by Navy SEALs in Somalia to seize a leader of Al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Shabab that claimed responsibility for a mall attack in Kenya two weeks ago.

U.S. officials told Reuters that the target was a Kenyan man of Somali origin named Ikrima.

The New York Times quoted an unnamed US security official as saying that the raid in the Al-Shabab stronghold of Barawe was in response to the armed group’s assault last month on the Westgate mall in Kenya, which left 71 people dead.

But Al Jazeera's Peter Greste, reporting from Somalia's capital Mogadishu, said US sources confirmed to him that they had failed to capture or kill their intended target.

In contrast to Libya's statement, Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdo said "our co-operation with international partners on fighting against the terrorism is not a secret.”

"Our interest is to get a peaceful Somalia and free from terrorism and problems."

Relentless pressure

Al-Liby’s capture in Tripoli ends a 15-year manhunt for the 49-year-old, who was listed on the FBI’s most wanted list. It also opens the way for criminal proceedings against him to take place in the U.S.

Al-Liby was indicted by the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York in 2000 for his alleged role in planning the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya on Aug. 7, 1998. The attacks killed 224 civilians and injured 5,000 others.

The U.S. Department of State was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

The Pentagon has so far declined to provide specific information regarding the mission, but Department of Defense Press Secretary George Little said in a statement that al-Liby was being held in a "secure location outside of Libya."

Mohammed El-Hadi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tripoli, quoted Liby's wife as saying that he was seized as he headed to morning prayers by eight to 10 masked men.

"His wife saw the men getting out of two cars in front of the house … she added that the masked men immediately attacked him before he could get out of his car," El-Hadi said. "She said she was listening to them and heard some of them speaking in a Libyan dialect ... and some information indicated they were Libyan special forces."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised the operations in Libya and Somalia, vowing to maintain “relentless” pressure on terrorists around the globe.

“These operations in Libya and Somalia send a strong message to the world that the United States will spare no effort to hold terrorists accountable, no matter where they hide or how long they evade justice,” he said in the Sunday statement.

Secretary of State Kerry said the Obama administration was “pleased with the results” of the combined assaults early on Saturday, and warned al-Qaeda fighters that they "can run but they cannot hide.”

But Abdul Bassit Haroun, a former Islamist militia commander who works with the Libyan government on security, warned that Islamist militants, like those blamed for the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a year ago, would try to hit back violently.

"This won't just pass," Haroun said. "There will be a strong reaction in order to take revenge because this is one of the most important Al-Qaeda figures."

Al Jazeera with wire services

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