Abu Anas al-Liby
Oct. 7: An accused operative for al Qaida seized by US commandos in Libya over the weekend is being interrogated while in military custody on a navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, officials said yesterday.
He is expected eventually to be sent to New York for criminal prosecution.
The fugitive, known as Abu Anas al-Liby, is seen as a potential intelligence gold mine, possessing perhaps two decades of information about al Qaida, from its early days under Osama bin Laden in Sudan to its more scattered elements today.
The decision to hold Abu Anas and question him for intelligence purposes without a lawyer present follows a pattern used successfully by the Obama administration with other terrorist suspects, most prominently in the case of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a former military commander with the Somali terrorist group al Shabab.
Warsame was captured in 2011 by the American military in the Gulf of Aden and interrogated aboard a navy ship for about two months without being advised of his rights.
After a break of several days, Warsame was advised of his rights, waived them, was questioned for about a week by law enforcement agents and was then sent to Manhattan for prosecution. “Warsame is the model for this guy,” one American security official said.
Warsame later pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with the government, providing intelligence information about his co-conspirators, who included “high-level international terrorist operatives,” federal prosecutors have said in court papers.
Abu Anas is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, a vessel brought in specifically for this mission, officials said.
Abu Anas, 49, who was born Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was indicted in Manhattan in 2000 on charges of conspiring with Osama bin Laden in plots to attack US forces in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia, as well as in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 224 people.
He has been described as a Qaida computer expert and helped to conduct surveillance of the embassy in Nairobi, according to evidence in trials stemming from the bombings. In investigating the attacks, the authorities recovered a Qaida terrorism manual in Abu Anas’s residence in Manchester, England.
The manual is a detailed treatise on how to carry out terrorist missions. It focuses on forged documents, safe houses, surveillance, assassinations, codes and interrogation techniques. It also cites “blasting and destroying the embassies and attacking vital economic centres,” and it endorses the use of explosives, saying they “strike the enemy with sheer terror and fright”.
It is not known if Abu Anas wrote the manual, but federal prosecutors introduced it as evidence in the 2001 trial of four operatives convicted in the bombings conspiracy, and in the prosecution of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.
The manual was also used in a 2006 trial in Virginia over whether to impose the death penalty on Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker in the September 11 plot.