(WASHINGTON) -- The Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday praised U.S. special forces for their successful capture of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist in Libya, but then questioned why the same tactic hasn’t been used to go after the men responsible for killing a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya last year.
“I think once again we saw our special forces do a tremendous job bringing this terrorist…to justice,” Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, told ABC News. “I wish we could see the same thing happen with the suspects in the Benghazi case. We still have terrorists at large that have yet to be brought to justice, that are responsible for killing our ambassador and our foreign service officers.”
Early Saturday, members of the U.S. Army’s elite counter-terrorism unit Delta Force snatched Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, better known as Anas al-Libi, just after morning prayers, officials said. Al-Libi has been wanted by the U.S. for more than a decade for his alleged role in the 1998 dual bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
According to al-Libi’s son, who claims to have seen video footage of his father’s abduction, al-Libi was pulled from his car by a group of men -- some wearing masks -- and hustled into another vehicle that sped away. It was, in the view of former Director of Strategic Operations of Multi-National Forces Iraq Lt. Gen. Mike Barbero (Ret.), a “textbook” special operation.
“Precise intelligence, the timing was exact, movement techniques to get there without being detected and withdrawing out of there with the objective…[It's] really an art,” Barbero said.
The operation took place on the streets of Tripoli, some 400 miles West of Benghazi, where just over a year ago on Sept. 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed in a coordinated attack on an American diplomatic facility and on a nearby CIA annex.
In the intervening year, the FBI has posted images on its website of nearly 30 people believed to have been at the scene of the attack about whom the bureau is “seeking information” and CNN was reportedly able to conduct an interview with one of the suspects in May, but to date no arrests have been made. Last month, The New York Times reported that though individual suspects have been identified and indicted in the U.S., a major obstacle remained with the struggling Libyan government, which has resisted efforts to either arrest the suspects itself or allow the U.S. to do so.
Days after the Times report, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy said that the security situation in Benghazi was keeping the Libyan government from granting access.
“Yes, they will let journalists in,” he said, apparently referring to the CNN report, “but they are not letting U.S. law enforcement in to arrest people there because the government of Libya is not in control to that degree.”
In the case of al-Libi, the Libyan government has denied allegations that it was aware of the Delta operation until it was already over and, the next day, released a statement asking the U.S. government for “clarification” on what it called the “kidnapping” of one of its people. On Monday, the U.S. State Department declined to comment on what kind of communication there was, if any, between the two governments prior to the abduction.
McCaul said he wants to see such operations again, this time ending with Benghazi suspects in custody.
“I think we need to unleash our special forces and let them do what they can do, let them do what they do best, and that is apprehending terrorists,” he said.
Officials told ABC News al-Libi is being held on a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean and is expected eventually to be handed over to the FBI and flown back to the U.S. to face terror-related charges.
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