For the second time in less than a year American commandos visited Libya and seized a wanted Islamic terrorist off the street. The latest incident, on June 15th, occurred “somewhere near Benghazi” and involved some FBI agents and local operatives in addition to the team of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operatives (SEALs). The man taken, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is the head of a local Islamic terrorist group Ansar al Sharia, and has openly bragged about his role in the September 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Libya, which was not given advance warning of this arrest, protested that the operation was a violation of their sovereignty. The U.S. replied that the mission was a legitimate act of self-defense in that Libya has been providing many Islamic terrorists de facto sanctuary because of the Libyan governments’ inability to crack down on the activities of the Islamic terrorist groups. The U.S. was able to pull off the June 15th operation despite the Libyan government still being upset about one in October, 2013 that grabbed another wanted terrorist. That was in large part because there was a bit of a civil war going on as a former army general was leading a coalition of tribal militias and army units against Islamic terrorists groups (like Ansar al Sharia). Not all Libyans consider attacks on leaders of Islamic terrorist groups an illegal act.
The earlier (October 5, 2013) raid in Tripoli saw American Delta Force commandos covertly came ashore and arrest an al Qaeda leader (Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai) long sought for his role in planning two terrorist attacks on American embassies in East Africa in 1998. Ruqai is a Libyan who returned in 2011 to take part in the revolution and after that lived openly, but quietly, in Tripoli. The Libyan government complained to the United States about this “kidnapping,” but the U.S. did not believe the Libyan government would, or even could, extradite Ruqai for his terrorist crimes. Ruqai is believed to have hidden out in Iran for over a decade. He was one of the few senior al Qaeda people still on the loose. Ruqai was noted for his technical skills (especially with computers) and ability to plan major terrorist operations. He was first interrogated aboard a U.S. Navy ship off the Libyan coast and then sent back to the United States for trial.
Ruqai was indicted for mass murder and other crimes over a decade ago. Since then more unfavorable evidence against him has appeared. Many Libyans are glad to see men like Ruqai taken away, but the government is making a show of anger in an effort to appease Islamic radical groups angry over the inability of the Libyan government to prevent American commandos from just coming in and taking wanted (in the West) terrorists. The Libyan government hoped there would not be more of these visits because many Islamic radicals were calling for attacks on government officials, if only to encourage the government to keep the Americans out. That did not work, such threats often don’t produce the desired result.
Part of the problem is that elections in Libya saw the well-organized Islamic conservative groups elect a lot of people who are sympathetic to a lot of Islamic terrorist groups and hostile towards the West. Yet many Libyans realize that without NATO and American air support their 2011 rebellion would have been a lot bloodier and might even have failed. Caught between Western demands to help catch Islamic terrorists living in Libya and resistance from many elected (by Islamic conservatives) officials who oppose these arrests the government is believed to have an understanding that as long as no one is hurt, the government will make loud protests for a while and then let it go.
Both Ruqai and Khattala were taken to an American amphibious ship off shore after their capture. The ship they were held on also had several Arabic speaking interrogators and both men revealed a lot of useful information as the ship slowly made its way back to the United States where Islamic terrorists can lawyer up and shut up. Out at sea there are different rules.