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US captures Qaeda leader linked to ’98 bombings

CAIRO — US forces Saturday captured a leader of Al Qaeda indicted in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, ending a 15-year manhunt by seizing him near the Libyan capital, American officials said.

The suspect, born Nazih Abd al Hamid al-Ruqhay and known by his nom de guerre, Abu Anas el-Liby, had been high on the list of the US government’s most-wanted fugitives since at least 2000, when a New York court indicted him for his alleged part in planning the embassy attacks. The FBI had offered a bounty of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.

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Abu Anas was captured near Tripoli in a joint operation by the US military, the CIA, and the FBI, and was in American custody, a US official said.

His capture was the latest blow to what remains of the original Qaeda organization after a 12-year-old American campaign to capture or kill its leadership, including the killing two years ago of its founder, Osama Bin Laden, in a compound in Pakistan.

Abu Anas is not believed to have played any role in the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, senior officials briefed on that investigation say, but he may have sought to build networks connecting what remains of the Qaeda organization to like-minded militants in his native Libya.

Senior officials of the Libyan transitional government said they were unaware of the operation that captured him. Some vehemently insisted that their forces would play no role in any such American military operation on Libyan soil.

But a senior American official said the Libyan government was involved.

Disclosure of the raid is likely to inflame anxieties among many Libyans about their national sovereignty, putting a new strain on the transitional government’s fragile authority.

Many Libyans already suspect that their interim prime minister, Ali Zeidan, who previously lived in Geneva as part of the exile opposition to Moammar Khadafy, of collaborating too closely with the West.

An American official said Abu Anas was to be brought to the United States for trial.

Since the overthrow of Khadafy in 2011, Tripoli has slid steadily into lawlessness, with no strong central government or police presence.

It has become a haven for militants seeking to avoid detection elsewhere, and US government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information, have acknowledged in recent months that Abu Anas and other internationally wanted terrorists had been seen moving freely around the capital.

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