John Kerry has defended the capture of an alleged al-Qa’ida suspect in Tripoli on Saturday, calling Abu Anas al-Liby “a legal and appropriate target” for the US Military.
The US Secretary of State said al-Libi – a former UK resident charged with involvement in the 1998 Kenya and Tanzania US embassy bombings – would have “an opportunity to defend himself” in a US court of law.
Speaking from an economic summit in Indonesia, Mr Kerry, a former prosecutor and assistant District Attorney, said: “An indictment is an accusation. In our legal system the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilt”.
From the side-lines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation conference, Mr Kerry told reporters: ”I hope the perception is in the world that people who commit acts of terror and who have been appropriately indicted by courts of law, by the legal process, will know that United States of America is going to do anything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and to protect our security.“
He added: “We hope that this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror. Members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations literally can run but they can't hide.”
The US Secretary of State spoke out following criticism of the US from the Libyan government.
In a statement the Libyan Prime Minister, Ali Zaidan, said: “The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by US authorities. The Libyan government has contacted US authorities to ask them to provide an explanation.”
Al-Liby, who is accused of working as a computer specialist for al-Qa’ida and had a place on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, was seized when returning to his car after morning prayers on the morning of Saturday.
Reports differ as to whether there was Libyan involvement in the capture of Anas al-Liby, otherwise known as Nazig al-Ragye.
Appearing on Tripoli's Nabir TV station, al-Liby's son Abdullah al-Ruqai said: “The people who took my father were Libyan, not Americans – they spoke with Tripoli accents.
Her added: “My mother was listening to the voices in the street and could see it all through the window. There were two cars and a bus with blacked-out windows and no number plates.”
But the Libyan government would neither confirm nor deny involvement in the arrest, saying it had not been planned in advance and that “clarification” was desired from the US government.
A press release posted on the Libyan government website read: “The Libyan government is keen on prosecuting any Libyan citizen inside Libya, no matter what the charges are... the accused are innocent until proven guilty.”
The two countries appear to be at odds, however, as a Pentagon statement on Sunday said al-Liby was “currently lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya”.
The double-intervention in north and east Africa – a reportedly unsuccessful commando raid also occurred in southern Somalia on Saturday – appears to be evidence of the growing military reach of the US in the region.
In his address to the UN general conference a fortnight ago, President Barack Obama appeared to forecast future action in the area, saying: “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.”
Later this month the UK Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to face questions from MPs as to why Abu Anas Al-Liby gained asylum in Britain during the 1990s.
The 49-year-old was arrested by the Metropolitan Police 1999 - the year after the embassy bombings left more than 220 people dead - but was afterwards released and later fled the UK.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies