Surprise U.S. raids on Somalia, Libya to seize terror suspects worry experts

| October 15, 2013

U.S. Navy Seals(GIN)—After two surprise U.S. raids, one into Somalia and one into Libya to capture suspected terrorists, the Libyan government is demanding an explanation of the unannounced maneuver.

In the Libyan operation, U.S. special forces seized Nazih al-Ragye, a.k.a Abu Anas al-Liby—a Libyan who is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians. He is reportedly being held on a U.S. ship for questioning.

Speaking to reporters, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said cautiously: “Our relationship with the USA is important, and we care about that, but we care too about our citizens, which is our duty.”

Libyans who commit crimes should be tried at home, he said.

Despite the high praise for U.S. Navy SEALS by Secretary of State John Kerry, experts see the prospect of “blowback” from the two weekend raids.

In the Somalia operation, US Navy commandos from SEAL Team Six attempting to kidnap the terror suspect, found his beachside villa well defended. A firefight ensued and the SEALS were repulsed.

Militant groups have responded furiously, using social media to call for revenge assaults on strategic targets including gas pipelines and ships. They have also called for the kidnappings of Americans in the capital.

Anticipating such threats, the U.S. will move about 200 Marines to a U.S. base at Sigonella, Italy from one in Spain in the next day or so to respond to any crises that may ensue.

The mixed success of the raids prompted Frank Gardner, BBC security specialist to ask: ”How effective in the long run are raids like the ones in Libya and Somalia?”

While the U.S. insists that the detention of this long-sought suspect is “lawful” and will be popular back home, in North Africa the raid could well prompt more recruits to join anti-Western jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

“When the most highly trained commandos from the most powerful military in the world attack a sandal-wearing militia and are forced to retreat, this will be seized on as a propaganda victory for al-Shabab,” Gardner wrote for the BBC.

“While the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Libya, there are other legal avenues to have used before the snatch and render method employed,” observed Vijay Prasad, co-editor of Dispatches from the Arab Spring and author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. “There is no indication that the U.S. ever asked the Libyans to extradite the suspect, nor that the U.S. informed the Libyans of this operation. It is a major setback to Libyan efforts to create transitional justice, and once more calls into question the U.S. commitment to a rules and regulations society.”


This article originally appeared in the Oct. 16 print edition.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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