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U.S. Says Libya Tacitly OK'd al-Qaida Snatch

October 9, 2013

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Navy SEAL5 team members on training mission (photo: U.S. Navy)

The Libyan government tacitly approved two U.S. operations to seize an al-Qaida senior militant and a militia leader, senior U.S. officials said.

The raid in which al-Qaida leader Anas al-Liby was captured Saturday was widely denounced by Libyan officials, who called it a kidnapping. They said they weren't involved and summoned the U.S. ambassador.

While Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment Tuesday, U.S. officials said the Libyans gave implicit approval, but did not play a role in the actual operation and weren't told in advance, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Combined with a Navy SEAL mission in Somalia, also on Saturday, the operation in Tripoli indicates the Obama administration is willing to take on risky missions to confront terrorism spreading across Africa, the Times said.

"Africa is one of the places that you're seeing some of these groups gather," Obama said Tuesday during a news conference. "And we're going to have to continue to go after them."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., praised the capture of al-Liby, whose real name Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, but decline to hypothesize on future operations in Libya.

"Under certain circumstances, they will go in," McCain told the Times. "The Benghazi thing was such a significant issue with the American people."

The Libyans' tacit approval was far more limited than the secret agreements the United States has had with the governments in Pakistan and Yemen in recent years, observers said.

The Pentagon has been preparing contingency plans for months in case Obama ordered a military operation, the Times said. An unarmed U.S. military surveillance drone has flown virtually every day over Benghazi gathering intelligence and the military's Joint Special Operations Command has compiled detailed information about possible suspects, military and counter-terrorism officials said.

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Original headline: U.S. officials say Libya tacitly approved raids

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