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US special forces strike Islamist fighters in Libya and Somalia

Pentagon officials say senior al-Qaida leader captured in Tripoli

US special forces lashed out at Islamist militants in Libya and Somalia at the weekend, claiming to have captured a senior al-Qaida leader in Tripoli.

Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the raids proved terrorists "can run but they can't hide," although the navy seal team sent to Somalia failed in its objective - retreating after a "fierce firefight" without capturing an al-Shabab agent said to be involved in last month's Nairobi shopping centre attack.

The Libyan raid by the US army's Delta Force seized Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, according to Pentagon officials.

Under the name Anas al-Libi he is accused of being an al-Qaida computing expert who has long been on the FBI's most wanted list for alleged involvement in bombing US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.

Mr Ruqai was arrested in Britain by Scotland Yard in 1999, having been granted political asylum in 1995 because of his opposition to the Muammar Gadaffi regime in Libya, but was released due to a lack of evidence. He later fled Britain and returned to Libya in 2010.

Pentagon officials said his capture would be a "significant blow" to al-Qaida, though the "decapitation" policy - taking out suspected militant commanders in terror raids - followed by the Barack Obama administration has proved counterproductive in Pakistan and Yemen, boosting support for Islamist fighters.

He is now being held "in a secure location outside Libya," according to the US military. Mr Kerry said his abduction proved that the US would "continue to try to bring people to justice in an appropriate way."

But the raids - conducted without consulting Libyan or Somalian authorities - bore echoes of the infamous "extraordinary rendition" programme that saw foreign nationals illegally seized and spirited away by the US only to face years of incarceration without trial in secret locations.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan today asked the US to explain the raid on its territory and said Libyans suspected of crimes should be tried in Libya.

Washington's global war also saw four more US casualties in Afghanistan today, with Nato acknowledging the soldiers' deaths "in the country's south." Officers said they had been killed by an improvised explosive device.


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