WASHINGTON — During al-Qaida's early years in the 1990s, when Osama bin Laden ran the terrorist group out of Sudan, the Libyan man detained in a raid by U.S. Special Operations forces over the weekend used his computer skills to rise to the top of the organization long before it emerged as a global menace, the Washington Post reported Monday, citing unnamed officials.
Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Libi, eventually moved back to his native Libya, where, over the past few years, he received an assignment from al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan: establish a new cell for the network in his homeland, which was reeling from a civil war.
Al-Libi, 49, is being held somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the USS San Antonio. U.S. counterterrorism interrogators are hopeful he will offer new insight into the recent transformation of al-Qaida into a decentralized network that has managed to consolidate new footholds in North Africa.
Meanwhile, the man who U.S. Navy SEALs tried to seize in Somalia over the weekend in a second raid is a senior operative of the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab. The attempt to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, also known as Ikrima, failed. He is suspected of being a recruiter for al-Shabab.