U.S. Tripoli raid deepens sense of chaos in Libya

Time reports: Two days after U.S. Special Forces seized one of the FBI’s most wanted al-Qaeda operatives in broad daylight in Libya’s capital, officials of that oil-rich nation are scrambling to explain what they knew in advance about a major foreign commando raid on their territory—an operation that could well provoke jihadist attacks in Libya and destabilize an already fragile government.

The U.S. operation was audacious: Early on Saturday morning, at least two carloads of armed men ambushed Anas al-Liby, one of the suspected masterminds of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar el-Salaam, which killed more than 200 people. As al-Liby returned from dawn prayers to his home in central Tripoli, the men cut off his black Hyundai sedan with their vehicles, smashed the window, pulled him out of the car and flew him out of Libya—all without the Libyan government’s knowledge or approval, or so the authorities in Tripoli claim.

To the U.S., al-Liby’s capture was a long time coming. At 49, al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was a key computer expert for al-Qaeda, who logged time with Osama bin Laden in Sudan and Afghanistan during the 1990s and whom U.S. officials believe acted as a scout and planner for the organization. In 2000, the U.S. indicted him in absentia and others for the embassy bombings. Pentagon officials said on Sunday that al-Liby was “lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya,” which was assumed by some to be a naval vessel in the Mediterranean. The operation’s stunning success was in stark contrast to a second commando raid before dawn on Saturday. U.S. Navy SEALs had tried to storm a house in southern Somalia, the suspected base of key al-Shabab operatives, when they came under a blaze of gunfire and were forced to withdraw before confirming if their target was dead.

Yet despite the success of the Libya operation, the fallout has already begun—and could deepen Libya’s already unstable security situation and shake its fragile government. On Sunday Libyan officials fumed in an official statement that the arrest was a “kidnapping,” and that they have “been in touch with the U.S. government and have asked for clarification on this matter.” Secretary of State John Kerry refused to say on Sunday whether the U.S. had sought Libya’s approval beforehand. But the statement from Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s office insisted the government was caught unawares. [Continue reading…]

Wayne White writes: This weekend’s US capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai’I, better known by his alias, Anas al-Libi, might net only limited information of current intelligence value while potentially resulting in militant Islamist payback in what remains a very fragile Libya. Of no less than three al-Qaeda operatives bearing the alias al-Libi (simply “the Libyan” in Arabic), Anas al-Libi could be the least significant overall. And should a Libyan militant Islamic group or militia decide to retaliate for this bold US grab, they are capable of doing significant harm.

Anas al-Libi’s former association with al-Qaeda is well-known, as are standing US indictments against him for actions related to the horrific 1998 East Africa bombing. Yet, relatively little seems to be known about how active he remained over the past few years. So the information he has might not be particularly useful if, for example, he was not knowledgeable about or involved in last year’s Benghazi consulate attack or other recent operations. US authorities apparently believe he has been working to expand al-Qaeda’s network in Libya (although perhaps not a certainty since he has been living in Tripoli without security). [Continue reading…]

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