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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1998 embassy bombing suspect arrives in NY

After a weeklong interrogation aboard a US warship, a Libyan al Qaeda suspect is now in New York awaiting trial on terrorism charges, US officials said Monday.

Abu Anas al-Libi was grabbed in a military raid in Libya on Oct. 5. He’s due to stand trial in Manhattan, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of US embassies in Africa in 1998.

US Attorney Preet Bharara confirmed that Libi was transferred to law-enforcement custody over the weekend. Libi was expected to be arraigned Tuesday, Bharara said.

President Obama’s administration took criticism years ago when it decided to prosecute admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York, rather than at the naval prison at Guantanamo Bay. 

After reversing course, however, the government has successfully prosecuted several terrorism cases in civilian courts.

A federal law-enforcement official and two other US officials said Libi arrived in New York on Saturday. 

The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

Intelligence officials interrogated him for a week aboard the USS San Antonio in the Mediterranean. 

Interrogations at sea have replaced CIA black sites as the US government’s preferred method for questioning terrorism suspects without access to lawyers.

Libi’s al Qaeda ties date back to the terrorist group’s early years, according to court documents. That would make him a valuable source of information about the group’s history.

It’s unclear whether he could offer fresh intelligence on the group, the core of which has been battered and fragmented.

Libi has longstanding health issues and will get medical testing while in custody to determine whether he needs treatment, US officials said.

Where exactly Libi is being held and where that testing would take place is unclear.

Known as one of al Qaeda’s early computer experts, Libi is believed to have used an early-generation Apple computer to assemble surveillance photographs in Kenya before a bombing there killed more than 200. That information was presented to Osama bin Laden, who approved the bombing, a former federal law enforcement official has said.

Libi, whose full name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, used to be on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists. His family denies he was in al Qaeda.

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