He was swiftly spirited out of the country. U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said he was being held “in a secure location outside of Libya.” He did not elaborate further.
In a statement Sunday, the Libyan government said it asked the U.S. for “clarifications” about what it called the “kidnapping,” underlining that its citizens should be tried in Libyan courts if accused of a crime. It said it hoped its “strategic partnership” with Washington would not be damaged by the incident.
Still, the relatively soft-toned statement underlined the predicament of the Libyan government. It is criticized by opponents at home over its ties with Washington, but it is also reliant on security cooperation with the Americans.
According to the federal indictment of al-Libi in a New York court, American prosecutors say he helped the African embassy bombings by scouting and photographing the embassy in Nairobi in 1993. Al-Libi was a computer expert who studied electronic and nuclear engineering at Tripoli University.
Al-Libi’s son Abdullah al-Ruqai told The Associated Press his father was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamic militant group that waged a campaign of violence against Gadhafi’s regime in the 1990s. Many of the group’s members — including al-Libi, were forced to flee the country at the time. A faction of the group allied with al-Qaida, though others in the group refused to.
Al-Libi is believed to have spent time in Sudan in the 1990s, when bin Laden was based there. In 1995, al-Libi later turned up in Britain, where he was granted political asylum under unclear circumstances and lived in Manchester. He was arrested by Scotland Yard in 1999, but released because of lack of evidence and later fled Britain.
Abdullah said the family then went to Afghanistan, where they spent a year and a half until they fled into Iran, where they were held in custody for seven years. Abdullah did not elaborate, but Iran jailed a number of al-Qaida-linked figures who fled Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of that country.