WASHINGTON- The United States on Sunday pledged to keep "relentless pressure" on terror groups following the daring capture of an Al-Qaeda operative in Libya and the storming of a Shebab stronghold in Somalia.
WASHINGTON- The United States on Sunday pledged to keep “relentless pressure” on terror groups following the daring capture of an Al-Qaeda operative in Libya and the storming of a Shebab stronghold in Somalia.
The tough talk from Washington, however, was met with questions in Tripoli, where officials demanded answers about what they called the “kidnap” on Saturday of Abu Anas al-Libi, who is indicted in connection with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Somalia was more welcoming of the US Navy SEAL raid in the southern port of Barawe on Saturday, with Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon saying cooperation with foreign partners in the fight on terror was “no secret.”
The success of that raid on the home of a leader of Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, was still unclear, with the fate of the target uncertain. It came after last month’s siege of an upscale shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi that left 67 people dead.
“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,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement.
“We will continue to maintain relentless pressure on terrorist groups that threaten our people or our interests, and we will conduct direct action against them, if necessary, that is consistent with our laws and our values.”
Earlier Sunday, speaking from an Asia-Pacific summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would “never stop” in its battle on terror.
And National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the operations showed that Washington “never forgets those who are victims of terrorism.”
No US personnel were killed or injured in either operation, officials said. Several Shebab militants were killed in the Somalia raid, one official said.
The Pentagon said Libi — who was on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head — was being “lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location” outside Libya.
Libi had been indicted in US federal court for allegedly playing a key role in the east Africa bombings — which left more than 200 dead — and plots to attack US forces, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
“Wherever possible, our first priority is and always has been to apprehend terrorist suspects, and to preserve the opportunity to elicit valuable intelligence that can help us protect the American people,” Little said.
The operation ended a 13-year manhunt for the 49-year-old Libi, whose given name is Nazih Abdul Hamed Al-Raghie.
The US raid took place in broad daylight with the knowledge of the Libyan government, a US official told CNN.
Libi’s son Abdullah al-Raghie said, citing surveillance camera footage, that his father had been seized by masked gunmen armed with pistols, and that some of them were Libyans.
Abdullah said he does not trust the Libyan government, which he believes is implicated in his father’s disappearance.
But authorities in Tripoli insisted the raid had no official authorization and demanded answers about what it called a “kidnap.”
“As soon as it heard the reports, the Libyan government contacted the US authorities to demand an explanation,” a government statement said.
In the Somalia raid, a US official said a “high-value” Shebab leader was the target, but according to the New York Times, SEAL commandos were forced to withdraw before confirming the kill.
The operation marked the most significant US assault in Somalia since commandos killed key Al-Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in the same area four years ago.
“US personnel took all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties in this operation and disengaged after inflicting some Shebab casualties,” the official said.
“We are not in a position to identify those casualties,” the official said. Leaders of the Shebab in Barawe, one of the few ports left in the hands of the insurgents, said commandos attacked from the sea and the air, but failed in their attempt to storm a house belonging to a senior commander.
“The Barawe raid was planned a week and a half ago,” a US security official told the Times. “It was prompted by the Westgate attack.”
“Our cooperation with international partners on fighting against the terrorism is not a secret,” said Farah Shirdon, the prime minister.
“Understand me, that fighting is not a secret. And our interest is to get a peaceful Somalia… free from terrorism and problems.”
Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP that commandos had stormed the beach by boat.
“The bungled operation was carried out by white people, who came with two small boats from a larger ship out at sea… one Shebab guard was killed, but reinforcements soon came and the foreigners fled,” he said.
“Where the foreigners had been, afterwards we saw lots of blood, so maybe we wounded some.”