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U.S. interrogates key al-Qaida operative after twin raids in Africa

October 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: There was more fallout today from the twin U.S. military raids on terrorists in Africa over the weekend.

Elite Delta Force commandos swarmed this car in Tripoli, Libya, on Saturday morning, snatching an al-Qaida leader known as Abu Anas al-Libi. He is wanted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people. Now he is reportedly on board an amphibious transport dock, the USS San Antonio, being interrogated. The Libyan government protested the raid, as did al-Libi’s brother.

NABEH AL-RAGYE, brother of Abu Anas al-Libi (through interpreter): Of course it was an act of piracy by a foreign force to kidnap my brother. They should have submitted a document to the Libyan government and put my brother on trial here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Instead, al-Libi could face a federal trial in New York, where he was indicted in 2000, for the embassy bombings and other crimes.

In Washington today, State Department spokeswoman Maria Harf defended the U.S. decision to grab him in Tripoli.

MARIE HARF, State Department: We obviously aren’t going to get into our specifics of our communication with the Libyan government, but we value our relationship. We support the aspirations of the Libyan people, and we will continue this strategic partnership.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a second raid unfolded Saturday in the Somalian town of Barawe. Members of the U.S. Navy’s elite Seal Team 6, seen here training, went after a senior leader of the Islamist group Al-Shabab.

The man known as Ikrimah is also accused in the ’98 embassy bombings and in attacks on an Israeli hotel and airline in Kenya in 2002. The SEALs ran into a hail of gunfire and had to withdraw without their man.

Still, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday in Indonesia that it sends a message.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror, and those members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations literally can run, but they can’t hide.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack last month on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where 67 people died. It is not known if Ikrimah was involved. But Kenyan police today released photos of two men they have identified who were part of the attack.