Libyan al-Qaeda suspect to appear in New York court
After a week of interrogation on US warship in Mediterranean, accused bomber goes to court
A Libyan al-Qaeda suspect captured in Tripoli is to appear in court on Tuesday in New York where he faces trial over the 1998 US embassy bombings in east Africa.
Anas al-Liby, a computer expert who had a US$5 million bounty on his head as an alleged member of al-Qaeda, arrived in New York at the weekend, a prosecutor said.
The 49-year-old was indicted in the city in 2000, accused of conspiring in the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya that killed 213 people on August 7 1998.
Another 5,000 people were wounded in the attack. A near simultaneous truck bomb outside the US mission in Tanzania killed a further 11 people and wounded 70 more.
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for both attacks.
The terror group was not stopped and three years later carried out the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people and brought down New York’s World Trade Centre.
New York South District attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Liby had been “transferred to law enforcement custody this weekend”.
“The government expects that he will be presented before a judicial officer tomorrow,” he added.
Liby was snatched from the streets of the Libyan capital by US commandos on October 5.
He was then held and interrogated onboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious American transport ship in the Mediterranean.
The Pentagon declined to comment Monday.
The suspect’s given name is Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie and he was on the FBI’s most wanted list over his alleged role in the East Africa embassy attacks.
The married father-of-four is accused of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim Americans and of plotting to maliciously damage and destroy US property.
The New York indictment of him and 20 other presumed al-Qaeda lieutenants refers to him in direct connection only to the US embassy bombing in Kenya.
It accuses Liby in 1993 of discussing possible attacks against the US embassy in Nairobi, and of surveilling the diplomatic mission.
In or around 1994, it says, he received files concerning possible terrorist attacks against the embassy, USAID and British, French and Israeli targets in Nairobi.
US President Barack Obama said last week Liby “planned and helped to execute a plot that killed hundreds of people, a whole lot of Americans.”
“We have strong evidence of that. And he will be brought to justice,” Obama added.
Liby’s capture embarrassed Libya and put it under pressure from its critics, notably former rebel groups from the 2011 revolt that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The government summoned the US ambassador and insisted that all Libyans should be tried on home soil.
Washington has refused to say whether it sought permission from Libya’s government for the operation, or whether it gave advance notice of the raid.
But the US government insists it was legal under US law.
“In any US operation, there is always some level of coordination with the local government,” a US defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Tripoli has denied accusations from Liby’s son Abdullah al-Raghie that it was implicated in the capture.
Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent, said in his book about al-Qaeda that Liby was “identifiable by a scar on the left side of his face”.
“Apart from his computer skills, he rose to become one of the terrorist group’s most efficient operatives and often trained other members,” Soufan wrote.
Liby was said to have worked for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network in Nairobi in 1993-4.
Liby’s cell was tasked with scouting US, British French and Israeli targets and, according to Soufan, his group then travelled to Khartoum to brief bin Laden.
Born in Tripoli, Liby belonged in 1990 to the Islamist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which tried to topple the Gaddafi regime and establish an Islamic state.
After a Libyan crackdown, Liby fled to Sudan, joining al-Qaeda, where he climbed the ranks because of his IT expertise.
He travelled to Afghanistan and Yemen before being granted political asylum in Britain.
When he was indicted in the United States he fled again, finding shelter in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He is understood to have returned to Libya at the beginning of the uprising against Gaddafi, battling alongside rebels seeking to topple the dictator.
One of his sons was killed by Gaddafi loyalists during the battle for Tripoli in October 2011, according to a source close to Liby.
When he was captured by the Americans, he did not have a job and had left the house only to go to the mosque.