Terrorist leaders around the world have probably gone to ground in the wake of Saturday’s capture by American commandoes of Abu Anas al-Libi, accused by the U.S. of involvement in the 1998 bombings to two American embassies in Africa. More than 200 people were killed.
The brazenness of the U.S. operation in the Libyan capital Tripoli will serve as a reminder of the 2011 killing in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden, head of the world’s leading terror organization, al-Qaida. Indeed, the same Navy SEALS unit that brought down bin Laden, who was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on America’s mainland, snatched al-Libi Saturday.
Another SEALS team swam ashore in Somalia early Saturday morning and engaged in a fierce firefight. The Americans disengaged after inflicting some casualties on al-Shabab fighters.
Al-Shabab is affiliated with al-Qaida, which has been expanding its operations in Africa and continues to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Islamic militants attached to Al-Shabab, with deep roots in Somalia, last months raided the Westgate shopping mall in the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. Almost 100 people were killed, including many expatriates from countries around the world.
In the aftermath of the bloody attack, which resulted in five militants being killed and about a dozen arrested by Kenyan forces, we urged the creation of a multi-national force to go after al-Shabab.
“If the United Nations isn’t willing to put together a multi-national force to send to southern Somalia, then the U.S., Britain and other Western nations should step in with their highly trained counterinsurgency units that have experience fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan,” we said in the editorial. “Indeed, the use of drones, which we have cautioned against because of the large number civilian casualties, is justified in this case.”
The decision by the Obama administration to go it alone was even better because now al-Libi can be interrogated on American territory, without other countries demanding a piece of him. Latest news reports say he is being held on a U.S. Navy ship on the Mediterranean. Given that he is an enemy combatant, the Obama administration should not rush to prosecute him. Rather, he should be subjected to intense questioning because he has information that would be invaluable in America’s war on global terrorism.
As for the raid in Somalia, the withdrawal of the commandoes during the firefight was the prudent thing to do because they could easily have been outnumbered. There are reports that al-Shabab suffered casualties, but it isn’t known whether any leaders were among the victims.
Nonetheless, the militants must know that they have targets on their backs, while al-Qaida has suffered another major setback with the capture of al-Libi.
And yet, the government of Libya, which owes its existence to the United States and other western nations, has called the capture of al-Libi a kidnapping. Truth be told, America had to act because the Libyans would not, just as the Pakistanis took no action against bin Laden, who lived in the shadow of a Pakistani military installation for six years.
Complaints from the governments in Islamabad and Tripoli ring hollow.