We appreciate the request of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan for an explanation for why US personnel swooped into Tripoli Saturday and captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, better known as Anas al-Libi. We presume, though, that his remarks, and whatever indignation accompanied them, were for domestic consumption.
Libya’s prime minister is either fully aware of who al-Libi is or is incompetent and out of touch in the extreme. He also knows why the United States wanted al-Libi. As for why U.S. officials didn’t quietly notify Libyan officials that we were on al-Libi’s tail, it was for the same reason we didn’t tell Pakistan that SEAL Team Six was on its way to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said al-Libi was being held “under the law of war” in a secure location outside Libya.
Al-Libi isn’t as big a fish as bin Laden, but he’s a high-level al-Qaida operative and has been among America’s most wanted terrorists for more than a decade. He is believed to be a computer specialist and a longtime associate of bin Laden. He has been indicted for the bombing in August 1998 of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Those attacks killed more than 250 people. After 9/11, the United States offered a reward of $25 million for him, a sum that has since been reduced to $5 million.
He was captured outside his home by an unidentified team of U.S. forces.
Another targeted terrorism suspect, this one in Somalia, escaped capture Saturday at the hands of SEAL Team Six. The suspect, who has not been identified, is a leader in the al-Shabab terrorist organization and was linked to the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi two weeks earlier.
Al-Shabab has developed into a major terrorist force in East Africa and has been able to attract American and British citizens as well as Somalis and fighters from Middle Eastern countries.
In Saturday’s raid, SEALS arrived by sea, attacking a residence housing al-Shabab members in a town about 150 miles south of Mogadishu. An intense firefight ensued before the SEALs left the way they came. Though the U.S. troops did not get their man, the suddenness of this raid and the raid in Tripoli serve as reminders to al-Shabab and other terrorist organizations that their leaders will never be completely safe. Keeping them on the defensive makes planning further terrorist attacks more difficult.
The two raids were also a reminder to nations that harbor terrorists not to bother posturing about explanations for U.S. raids.