“U.S. personnel took all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties and disengaged after inflicting some al-Shabab casualties,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert operation. “We are not in a position to identify those casualties.”
Separately, another U.S. official confirmed that the United States was involved in an operation in Libya on Saturday to capture a member of al-Qaeda who is suspected of involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a Libyan known by the alias Anas al-Libi, was detained in Tripoli. A second American official said Washington intends to bring Ruqai to the United States to stand trial.
Libya’s government said Sunday that it had not been consulted ahead of the U.S. operation, which it deemed “a kidnapping” of a Libyan citizen, who it said, should have been tried on Libyan soil.
“Since hearing the news, the Libyan government has been in contact with American authorities and has asked them to offer clarification,” the government said in a statement.
Libya and the United States have a “strategic partnership,” the statement said. “The government hopes that this strategic partnership will not be at risk as a result of this incident, and that communication between the two governments will be sufficient to rectify this situation,” it added.
Since the bloody 2011 revolution that toppled the regime of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya has been wracked by lawlessness, the growth of extremism, and sporadic outbreaks of violence between rival militias. The country’s now-elected government wields little authority across the country’s cities and open desert and mountains, where militias hold both the guns and the clout.
Even Libya’s armed forces, which have received training and funding from the United States in an effort to develop its capacity to deal with terrorist threats, expressed surprise at Ruqai’s bold capture in their capital. “We found out from media outlets just like everybody else,” Aly Sheikhi, a spokesman for the Libyan armed forces chief of staff. He said he had no other information on the incident.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said Saturday night that Ruqai is “currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside Libya.”
A brother of Ruqai told the Associated Press his brother was seized early Saturday after three cars pulled up next to his and their occupants smashed his window and forced him out of his vehicle. The brother described the abductors as foreign-looking “commandos.”