News Column

Qaeda Top Operative Snatched in Libya

October 7, 2013

Gary J. Remal, Boston Herald

Oct. 06--The capture of an al-Qaeda leader in Libya yesterday -- wanted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in east Africa -- was a victory for U.S. intelligence and military forces, which most likely had President Obama's approval to carry out the daring plan, a national intelligence expert said.

Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, 49, known by his alias Anas al-Libi, was seized by gunman in a three-car convoy outside his home, his family said. His wife saw the kidnapping from her window and described the abductors as foreign-looking armed "commandos."

Al-Libi is on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head. He was indicted by a federal court in New York for his alleged role in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 7, 1998, that killed more than 250 people.

"It's a huge deal," said former Air Force intelligence officer Cedric Leighton, who served in top roles at both the Pentagon and the National Security Agency. "It shows U.S. special forces and our intelligence agencies will go for a long time to get somebody like this."

The capture of al-Libi leaves only Ayman al- Zawahri -- the man who took the helm of al-Qaeda when Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Forces -- on the loose among the group's original senior leaders, Leighton said.

"Al-Zawahri is practically the last man standing of the original group, and that's the unique aspect to this operation and how the policy to decimate the al-Qaeda leadership is working ... no matter which administration is in power."

Leighton said operations like al-Libi's capture must receive approval at the very highest levels.

"It's certain that the White House and the president himself would have been involved in this," he said.

Al-Libi was believed to be a computer specialist with al-Qaeda. He is believed to have spent time in Sudan where Osama bin Laden was based in the early 1990s. After bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan, al-Libi turned up in Britain in 1995 where he was granted political asylum. He apparently fled in 2000 when his name was added to the FBI's most wanted list.

"You can't do an operation like this without having good intelligence services and without being able to act on that intelligence," Leighton said.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.


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Original headline: Qaeda big captured

Source: (c)2013 Boston Herald

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