Libya, Somalia raids show US reach but highlights problems
US forces snatch Libyan wanted over the bombings of the American embassy in Nairobi
Abdullah al Ragye (L), son of Nazih al-Ragye, better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, speaks to reporters at the family home in Tripoli yesterday. Photograph: Reuters
Two US raids in Africa show the United States is pressuring al Qaeda, officials said, though a failure in Somalia and an angry response in Libya also highlighted Washington’s woes.
In Tripoli, US forces snatched a Libyan wanted over the bombings of the American embassy in Nairobi 15 years ago and whisked him out of the country, prompting Secretary of State John Kerry to say that al Qaeda leaders “can run but they can’t hide.”
But the capture of Nazih al-Ragye, better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, also provoked a complaint about the “kidnap” from the Western-backed Libyan prime minister, who faces a backlash from armed Islamists who have carved out a share of power since the West helped Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gadafy two years ago.
In Somalia, Navy SEALS stormed ashore into the al Shabaab stronghold of Barawe but, a US official said, they failed to capture or kill the target among the Somali allies of al Qaeda.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the target was a Kenyan of Somali origin known as Ikrima, described as a foreign fighter commander for al Shabaab in Somalia.
Ikrima, whose real name is Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar, was linked with now-dead al Qaeda 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, US officials said.
One official said the US operation in Somalia was not in direct response to last month’s al Shabaab attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67. It was not known if Ikrima was connected to that attack, the official said.
Mr Kerry, on a visit to Indonesia, said president Barack Obama’s administration was “pleased with the results” of the combined assaults early on Saturday. “We hope this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror,” he said.
Two years after Navy SEALS tracked down and killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, a decade after al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, the twin operation demonstrated the reach of US military forces in Africa, where Islamist militancy has been growing.
The forays also spotlighted Somalia’s status as a fragmented haven for al Qaeda allies more than 20 years after Washington intervened in vain in its civil war and Libya’s descent into an anarchic battleground.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said they showed Washington would “spare no effort to hold terrorists accountable.”
Clearly aware of the risks to his government of complicity in the snatching of Liby, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said: “The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by US authorities.
“The Libyan government has contacted US authorities to ask them to provide an explanation.”
Mr Kerry declined to say whether his government had told Libya of the raid to capture Al-Liby, whom he called a “legal and appropriate target” for the US military.