US team questions seized al-Qaida leader on Navy ship

Protesters burn a replica of the US flag in Benghazi, Libya, on Monday, Oct. 7 during a demonstration against the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi.

A senior al-Qaida leader seized by U.S. special forces during a raid in Libya is being questioned by a U.S. interrogation team aboard a Navy ship.

WASHINGTON — An elite U.S. interrogation team is questioning the senior al-Qaida figure who was seized by U.S. special operations forces in Libya and then whisked onto a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. officials said Monday.

Nazih al-Ruqai, better known by the cover name Abu Anas al-Libi, is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock ship, the officials said.

He is being questioned by the U.S. High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, an interagency unit created in 2009 and housed in the FBI's National Security Branch. The group specializes in garnering information from terrorism suspects to prevent planned attacks.

A suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians, al-Libi was snatched on the streets of Tripoli on Saturday and quickly taken out of the North African country.

The raid was carried out by the U.S. Army's special operations Delta Force, a U.S. official said. Al-Libi's son, Abdullah al Ragye, 19, told reporters that men pulled up in four cars, drugged his father, dragged him from his vehicle and drove off with him.

Related: Libya bristles at US raid that captured militant

Al-Libi is wanted by the FBI, which gives his age as 49 and had offered a $5 million reward for help in capturing him. He was indicted in 2000 along with 20 other al-Qaida suspects including Osama bin Laden and current global leader of the militant network, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Al-Libi's indictment was filed in New York, making that a possible venue for a civilian, rather than military, trial.

One U.S. official said he might face prosecution in New York, although there has been no formal announcement about U.S. government plans.

The capture came the same weekend that a Navy SEAL team swooped into Somalia in an operation targeting a senior al-Shabab figure known as Ikrima, whom U.S. officials described as a foreign fighter commander for the organization in Somalia.

The Somalia raid was designed to capture Ikrima, but the SEAL team broke off the mission when it became apparent that capturing him would not be feasible without a heavy risk of civilian casualties and to the SEAL team itself, officials said.

Related: Target of SEAL raid planned attacks in Kenya

After arriving in the town of Barawe, there was a firefight with al-Shabab militants who U.S. officials say sustained multiple casualties. Ikrima's status was unclear.

Ikrima, whose real name is Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar, was linked with now-dead al-Qaida operatives Harun Fazul and Saleh Nabhan, who had roles in the 1998 embassy bombing in Nairobi and in the 2002 attacks on a hotel and airline in Mombasa, U.S. officials said.

Despite his status within al-Shabab, Ikrima is not seen as particularly close to al-Shabab leader Ahmed Godane, one U.S. official said.

Officials say the U.S. operation in Somalia was planned weeks ago and was not in direct response to last month's al-Shabab attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed at least 67.

Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria.


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