U.S. forces launched attacks against terrorist targets in Somalia and Libya on Saturday, capturing an al Qaeda leader wanted for his role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, according to multiple media reports.
Unnamed sources told NBC News and the Times that U.S. forces near Tripoli, Libya, captured al-Qaeda member Abu Anas al-Libi, who is believed to have helped plan the 1998 U.S. Embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people. The FBI had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.
Al-Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was linked to Osama bin Laden and could ultimately be brought to the U.S. to stand trial, NBC reported. He has been on the USA's most-wanted fugitives list since 2000, when a New York court indicted him for his role in the embassy attacks, the Times reported.
A team of Navy SEALs also raided an al-Shabab militant group in Somalia in a daring predawn attack, The New York Times and NBC News reported Saturday.
The raid was in response to an al-Shabab attack on a Nairobi shopping mall two weeks ago. Al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group, has claimed responsibility for the action, which killed at least 67 people.
Saturday night, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little released a statement.
"I can confirm that yesterday, October 4, U.S. military personnel were involved in a counter terrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist," Little said. "We are not prepared to provide additional detail at this time."
Sources told NBC News and The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. that the raid was in pursuit of a "high-value target," but neither news outlet named the targeted person nor said whether the subject had been caught.
It is believed that the target was killed in the firefight, the Times reported a senior American official saying. However that was not confirmed before the SEALs were forced to withdraw, the official also told the paper.
The Guardian reported that an official said the target in Somalia was a "high-profile foreign leader in al-Shabab," possibly a Chechen.
Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on the Somali raid when reached by the Guardian.
The Times reported that the SEALs raided a seaside villa where al-Shabab members were staying, in the Somali town of Baraawe. The firefight lasted more than an hour. Somali officials told the newspaper that the government had been informed of the raid.
One al-Shabab spokesman told the Guardian that the raid had involved special forces from the United Kingdom and Turkey, but British officials denied the claim.
An al-Shabab spokesman told the paper that one fighter had been killed in the attack but that the American assault had been beaten back. The condition of the SEAL team is unknown.
U.S. officials have been concerned that al-Shabab might attempt attacks in the United States and have sought to weaken the group.
Contributing: Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY