Tripoli, Libya • A day after U.S. 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. In the capital, Libyan civilians and political officials reacted with surprise and confusion.
On Saturday, U.S. 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-Qaida, on the streets of Tripoli. At around the same time, 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 U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and had a $5 million bounty on his head.
In Somalia, the SEAL team emerged before sunrise from the Indian Ocean and exchanged gunfire with militants at the home of a senior leader of al-Shabab, a Somali militant group. The raid was planned more than a week ago, officials said, after a massacre by al-Shabab at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed more than 60 people two weeks ago.
The SEAL team was forced to withdraw before it could confirm that it had killed the al-Shabab leader, a senior U.S. security official said. Officials declined to identify the target.
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 government of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Somalia, the birthplace of al-Shabab, has lacked an effective central government for more than two decades.
On Sunday, Libya’s government called for more information regarding the U.S. 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 U.S. officials Saturday that the Libyan government had played some role in the seizure of Abu Anas.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated Sunday that the U.S. would not hesitate to take similar action in the future.