WASHINGTON — An elite U.S. interrogation team is questioning the senior al-Qaida figure who was captured in Libya and then taken onto a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. officials said Monday.
Nazih al-Ragye, better known by the cover name Abu Anas al-Liby, is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock ship, the officials said.
He is being questioned by the U.S. High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, an inter-agency group created in 2009 and housed in the FBI’s National Security Branch.
Liby is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians.
Wanted by the FBI, which gives his age as 49 and had offered a $5 million reward for help in capturing him, Liby was indicted in 2000 along with 20 other al-Qaida suspects including Osama bin Laden and current global leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
Liby’s indictment was filed in New York, making that a possible venue for a civilian, rather than military, trial.
One U.S. official said he might face prosecution in New York, although there has been no formal announcement about U.S. government plans.
Liby’s son, Abdullah al Ragye, 19, told reporters that men pulled up in four cars on Saturday, drugged his father, dragged him from his vehicle and drove off with him.
The capture came the same weekend that a Navy SEAL team swooped into Somalia in an operation targeting a senior al Shabaab figure known as Ikrima, whom U.S. officials described as a foreign fighter commander for the organization in Somalia.
U.S. officials say they failed to capture him or kill him, breaking off the raid in order to avoid civilian casualties. U.S. officials say U.S. forces inflicted some al Shabaab casualties.
No U.S. personnel were killed or injured.
Ikrima, whose real name is Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar, was linked with now-dead al-Qaida operatives Harun Fazul and Saleh Nabhan, who had roles in the 1998 embassy bombing in Nairobi and the 2002 attacks on a hotel and airline in Mombasa, U.S. officials said.
Despite his status within al Shabaab, Ikrima is not seen as particularly close to al Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane, one U.S. official said.
Officials say the U.S. operation in Somalia was not in direct response to last month’s al Shabaab attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67.