US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday insisted that the capture of an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Libya in a daring US raid was legal, after Tripoli demanded answers about the “kidnap.”
Abu Anas al-Libi, who was indicted in connection with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and has a US$5 million FBI bounty on his head, was captured on Saturday.
It was one of two US raids over the weekend, with US Navy Seals also storming an al-Shabaab stronghold in the southern Somalian port of Barawe, although the success of that assault was unclear.
The operation to capture al-Libi drew fury from the Libyan government, which said it was unauthorized and described it as a “kidnap.”
However, Kerry defended the operation as within the law.
“With respect to Abu Anas al-Libi, he is a key al-Qaeda figure, and he is a legal and an appropriate target for the US military,” Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Indonesia.
He added that al-Libi had committed “acts of terror” and had been “appropriately indicted by courts of law, by the legal process.”
“The United States of America is going to do everything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and protect our security,” Kerry added.
Yet when asked whether the US had informed Libya before the raid, Kerry refused to say.
“We don’t get into the specifics of our communications with a foreign government on any kind of operation of this kind,” he said.
Al-Libi was taken to a US Navy warship in the region after the raid and was being questioned there, a US official said.
Al-Libi, 49, had been indicted in the US federal court in New York for allegedly playing a key role in the east Africa bombings — which left more than 200 dead — and plots to attack US forces.
The Tripoli operation ended a 13-year manhunt for al-Libi, whose given name is Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie. FBI and CIA agents assisted US troops in the raid, US media reported.
His arrest paves the way for his extradition to New York to face trial.
Citing surveillance camera footage, al-Libi’s son, Abdullah al-Raghie, said his father had been seized by masked gunmen armed with pistols, some of which were Libyans.
He claimed that the Libyan government was implicated in his father’s disappearance, a claim Tripoli vehemently denies.
Asked whether the abduction of al-Libi by US forces on foreign soil may send a negative perception about the US to the world, Kerry insisted that should not be the case.