Tripoli — Al-Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie was captured in Tripoli on Saturday (October 5th).
Known as Abu Anas al-Libi and described by his wife as "Osama bin Laden's bodyguard", the terrorist was wanted in connection with the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Of the 224 victims of the bomb attacks, 212 were civilians from Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
No one was killed or injured during the operation to arrest the al-Qaeda militant. There was an outstanding $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
A former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG, or Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya), Abu Anas ended up in central Asia on the advice of Abu Laith al-Libi, a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden killed in the tribal region of Pakistan in 2008.
His tech and IT skills reportedly helped him rise through the ranks of the terror organisation.
Libyan Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani said Tuesday that Abu Anas would be sent to New York to stand trial. The minister explained that he met with the US ambassador to clarify the situation, stating Libya's desire to try its own citizens.
"In the meeting, we demanded that the Libyan consulate in New York be given access to the defendant regardless of the way he was arrested, and that the defendant be allowed to communicate with his family, whether his wife or any other family member, as per the law. We're waiting to visit his family and communicate with them," al-Marghani said.
Al-Marghani noted that the government would carefully consider Libya's interests. "We have to speak in a diplomatic and legal way," he said. "We have Libyan legal experts who will advise the government on what to do before US courts. It's become a legal issue examined by a court."
"We're in regular contact with the US government and we've seen co-operation from the US ambassador to Libya," he added.
As to the potential return of Abu Anas to Libya, al-Marghani said, "The United States is a friendly country who always supports and listens to us. The operation was carried out, and this is a US legal issue that has raised controversy in world countries."
"We shall focus on human rights and citizen's rights to receive a fair trial. Again, this is a legal issue, but we won't give up on our right, and we'll resort to legal means," he added.
Abu Anas arrest sparks debate
The successful mission to capture the wanted terrorist sparked a wide-ranging debate in the Libyan capital. Some supported the operation while others opposed it, but the majority preferred to remain silent for fear of the reactions by supporters of al-Qaeda's man in Libya.
Hadi al-Akrouti, a trader in his fifties, told Magharebia that he had not heard of Abu Anas al-Libi before. "I learned about his arrest from Arab TV channels though he has never been mentioned before in the local media. However, according to reports expounded by various media, he is a dangerous man not only for internal security but for international security too," he said.
In her turn, Intesar Mubarak al-Aqili, a lawyer and a member of the former National Transitional Council, said that "a suitable legal atmosphere must be guaranteed for the defendant with the presence of a lawyer or a defence team to defend him."
Meanwhile, Samia Mohamed said, "Thank God, we've got rid of the evil of a terrorist who must be punished for killing people."
"He deserves that; retribution will be exacted on killers," remarked 34-year-old Osama al-Mashlushi.
For his part, Khaled Araibi, a student from the centre of Libya, lamented "those who shed tears for a person who mercilessly killed innocents. Now they are talking about the need to respect the prestige of a country that was unable to arrest him and the likes of those who terrorise innocent people every day."
Idriss Beshti, in his fifties, told Magharebia, "I wish Libyan authorities had arrested and tried him before Libyan courts in order to spare the government such an embarrassment."
"My hope is that extremists will not exploit this arrest and take revenge with terrorist operations targeting civilians," commented Sadik Khalifa, a teacher.
As for Mona, who asked to be called daughter of Benghazi, she told Magharebia that those opposed to Abu Anas' apprehension were "feeling sorry for a person who was arrested in front of his wife, and they forgot the likes of those who cut off heads in front of children."