TRIPOLI – Abu Anas al-Libi, the al-Qaida suspect seized in Libya over the 1998 bombings of American embassies in East Africa, is almost unknown in his homeland, where he kept a low profile.
The U.S. had been hunting al-Libi — real name Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie — for 13 years for his alleged key role in the deadly attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
With a $5 million bounty on his head, al-Libi, 49, was on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists.
He was snatched early Saturday in Tripoli in broad daylight, and the Pentagon said he was being “lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location” outside Libya.
A source close to al-Libi said he had returned to Libya at the beginning of the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi in February 2011, battling alongside rebels seeking to topple the dictator.
The married father of four lost one of his sons, killed by Gadhafi loyalists during the operation to seize the capital from regime forces in October 2011, the source said.
His family had returned to Libya before him in 2010 as part of an initiative launched by Gadhafi son Seif al-Islam.
After the uprising, al-Libi kept a low profile, the relative said.
He had not been working, and only left the house to go to the mosque, dressing in the Afghan style of radical Islamists.
The source said al-Libi’s children had difficulties readjusting to their school in Libya after spending years in exile abroad because of their father.
In 1990, al-Libi was a member of the Islamist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which tried to topple the Gadhafi regime and establish an Islamic state.
After the regime cracked down on Islamists in the early 1990s, al-Libi fled first to Sudan, joining the al-Qaida network, where he climbed the ranks because of his IT and telecommunications expertise.
In September 2012, U.S. broadcaster CNN reported that al-Libi had been seen in Tripoli.
Western intelligence agencies feared that he had been tasked with forming an al-Qaida network in Libya but were unable to catch him because of security problems plaguing the country, CNN said.