Libya has demanded an explanation after the US captured a man it alleges is an al-Qaeda leader during a raid in Tripoli.
Ali Zeidan, Libya’s prime minister, suggested on Sunday that his government was not informed of the plan before US commandos seized Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Liby, in the Libyan capital on Saturday.
“The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by US authorities,” Zeidan said in a statement. “The Libyan government has contacted to US authorities to ask them to provide an explanation.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the capture was “appropriate and legal”.
Speaking to journalists at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Indonesia’s Bali island, Kerry said the US does “everything in its power that is appropriate and legal” to hunt down al-Qaeda members.
But he added that Washington “does not go into the specifics” with foreign governments about operations such as the one that led to the capture of Libi.
Libi is wanted by the US for his alleged role in the East Africa embassy bombings that killed 224 people in 1998. The US had offered $5m for information leading to his capture.
US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel praised the US military on Sunday saying that the raid underlined the precision, global reach and capabilities of the US forces.
George Little, a spokesman for the US Defence Department, said that Liby was being “lawfully detained by the US military in a secure location outside of Libya”.
Liby’s wife told newsmen that she saw the men getting out of two cars in front of the house, adding that the masked men immediately attacked him before he could get out of his car.
According to her, she was listening to them and heard some of them speaking in a Libyan dialect … and some information indicated they were Libyan special forces.
Nabih al-Ruqai, Liby’s brother, blamed foreign troops for using illegal methods: “This is a work of piracy from foreign troops on Libyan land to kidnap my brother, they were supposed to present legal documents to the Libyan government and my brother should be tried here in Libya – like any Libyan,” he said.
The raid in Libya coincided with a failed attempt in Somalia to seize Ahmed Godane, a leader of the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab.
The New York Times quoted an unnamed US security official as saying that the raid in Barawe was in response to the al-Shabaab assault last month on the Westgate mall in Kenya, which left at least 71 people dead.
Commenting on the attack, Kerry warned al-Qaeda fighters that they “can run but they cannot hide”.