U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel -- reacting to two U.S. commando raids in North Africa that had mixed results -- on Sunday said the weekend operations demonstrated the U.S. commitment to fighting terrorism.
"These operations in Libya and Somalia send a strong message to the world that the United States will spare no effort to hold terrorists accountable, no matter where they hide or how long they evade justice," Hagel said in provided comments.
U.S. special forces in Libya on Saturday seized accused senior al-Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi and removed him from the country to be interrogated on a U.S. Navy transport ship, the New York Times reported. A separate Saturday operation by Navy special forces on the Somali seacoast was unsuccessful in its goal of seizing a high-ranking figure in al-Shabab -- the group that claimed responsibility for the recent deadly siege of a Nairobi shopping mall.
Al-Libi, 49, is currently being questioned aboard the U.S.S. San Antonio in the Mediterranean Sea, according to officials. U.S. Defense officials are hopeful his capture will lead to new revelations about the inner workings of al-Qaida as his involvement with the international terrorist group is understood to go back roughly 20 years.
Al-Libi was formally accused in New York federal court in 2000 of involvement in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and of plotting with deceased al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden to carry out strikes on U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. The Libyan man reportedly is skilled with computers and allegedly helped to plan the Nairobi embassy attack, which killed more than 200 people.
The rendition of al-Libi took place in the open outside of his house in Tripoli. U.S. commandos carried out the raid with support from the CIA and FBI.
Defense Department spokesman George Little in a statement said al-Libi "is currently lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya."
Saturday's exploits come amid efforts by the Obama administration to draw down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and to dial-back U.S. counter-terror operations' heavy reliance on unmanned aircraft to eliminate targets. The raid in Libya also demonstrates how little faith the U.S. government has in Libya's security forces, the Times separately reported.
"This appears to be the first unilateral operation under military authorities to capture someone outside of war zones or ungoverned places like Somalia," former CIA chief of staff Jeremy Bash said.
After encountering heavy armed resistance, U.S. commandos backed off from their effort to seize an al-Shabab leader known as Ikrimah, an unidentified U.S. official said. The operative reportedly has ties to two al-Qaida members who figured into one of the 1998 embassy attacks.