AQ suspect in 1998 embassy bombings dies in US custody

Fifteen months ago, the US captured a man that had spent many years on its most-wanted list, plucking Abu Anas al-Libi out of the failed state of Libya as its government howled over the encroachment on its sovereignty. It later turned out that the Libyan government approved the raid, but that was a sideshow to the big capture of an alleged al-Qaeda commander, one who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds in the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, including twelve Americans. The trial would have given American prosecutors a chance to bring justice for victims who have waited 17 years for it.

Now it looks like they’ll never get that chance:

Abu Anas al Libi, an alleged al Qaeda operative accused of involvement in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa who was captured by U.S. special forces in Libya, has died in a U.S. hospital, his son said Saturday. …

Mouin told CNN his father’s health had deteriorated since U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers snatched him from outside his family home in Tripoli in October 2013.

Mouin said his father, who suffered from advanced hepatitis C, had been in a hospital in a coma before his death. He said his father had also developed liver cancer since his capture.

The family holds the U.S. government “fully responsible” for what happened to the man they call al-Ruqaii, Mouin said.

Until now, there had been no indication that Libi (real name Nazih al-Ruqai) had been ill at all. As CNN notes in this video created before his demise, Libi took part in pre-trial court proceedings in his defense:

The claim of innocence here is, well, strange. The family of Raqaii acknowledges that he joined al-Qaeda, and apparently that his work within the group coincided with the allegations of the US indictment. Libi/Raqaii cased out the two embassies for AQ in preparation for some kind of attack, and his pictures allowed Osama bin Laden to personally plan the placement of the truck bombs that devastated both embassies. It doesn’t matter if Raqaii took the pictures in 1993 and then left the group before the plans got finalized, as the family insists (to join another terrorist network, and only much later to look for a regular job). After all, bin Laden didn’t send Raqaii to take pictures of embassies to have as keepsakes in his photo album. That makes Raqaii a co-conspirator regardless of when the attack took place, his status at that time, and indeed whether the attack ever took place at all.

Besides, the government had a witness ready to testify that Raqaii played a much more substantial part in the attack, as CBS New York noted at the time of his arrest. Egypt discovered an AQ mole in its military and turned him over to the US, and his account put Raqaii firmly in the inner circle around bin Laden while planning the attack:

Now the family blames the US for Raqaii’s death from natural causes while in custody. Well, I can think of more than 200 families who wish that their loved ones had the opportunity to die from natural causes rather than at the hands of Islamist terrorists. I’ll shed my tears for them.

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