President Obama today dodged a reporter’s direct question about the U.S. special forces’ capture of a high-profile al Qaeda suspect off the streets of Tripoli: Did it comply with international law?
Obama paused at the White House podium and then told reporters, “We know that Mr. [Anas] al-Libi planned and helped execute plots that killed hundreds of people, a whole lot of Americans, and we have strong evidence of that and he will be brought to justice.”
Obama then called on another reporter and the discussion returned to the political mess in Washington.
In his reference to the “plots that killed hundreds of people,” Obama was likely referring to the 1998 dual bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which claimed the lives of 224 people, including 12 Americans. Anas al-Libi was indicted, along with 20 other alleged al Qaeda members or associates including Osama bin Laden, in 2000 for allegedly helping plan that attack.
Fifteen years after the bombings, al-Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was snatched outside his home in the Libyan capital early Saturday morning by the elite U.S. Army unit Delta Force, according to a military source, and spirited a Navy ship waiting in the Mediterranean.
The Libyan government, which says it was unaware of the operation until it was over, the next day called on the U.S. government for “clarification” on what it said was a “kidnapping.”
Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the mission, calling al-Libi a “legal and appropriate target for the U.S. military.”
The practice of nabbing wanted persons from foreign countries with or without that country’s permission, known as rendition, is one of America’s most controversial national security tactics.