The suspected al-Qaida figure nabbed by United States special forces in a dramatic operation in the Libyan capital had been living freely in his homeland after his return there three years ago, his family said.
Libya's government asked for an explanation Sunday from the US after the Americans seized Abu Anas al-Libi from a Tripoli street outside his home and whisked him out of the country.
The raid that captured al-Libi was one of two dramatic American raids on the ground in African countries targeting suspected terrorists on Saturday.
In Somalia, a Navy SEAL team swam ashore early the same day and engaged in a fierce firefight, though it did not capture its target, a militant suspected in the recent Kenyan mall siege.
The operations - one in North Africa, the other in the Horn of Africa - were a startling move to pursue terror suspects directly in two countries mired in chaos where the US has suffered bloody humiliations in the past.
"We hope that this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror," US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday while in Indonesia for an economic summit. "Members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations literally can run but they can't hide."
The Pentagon identified the figure seized in the Libyan capital Saturday as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Libi, who is accused by the US of involvement in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa. He has been on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list since it was introduced shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. There was a US$5 million bounty on his head.
The US Defense Department's chief spokesman, George Little, said the suspect is "lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya."
Al-Libi was indicted by a federal court in New York for his alleged role in the bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7, 1998, that killed more than 220 people.
He was believed to be a computer specialist with al-Qaida. He studied electronic and nuclear engineering, graduating from Tripoli University, and was an anti-Gadhafi activist.
In the earlier raid Saturday, the Navy SEAL team reached land near a town in southern Somalia before militants of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. American officials said there were no U.S. casualties in either the Somali or Libyan operation.
The assault on a house in Barawe targeted a specific al-Qaida suspect related to the Nairobi mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told the AP. It was carried out by members of SEAL Team Six, the same unit that killed bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout in 2011, another senior U.S. military official said.
The leader of al-Shabab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Ahmed Godane, claimed responsibility for the mall attack, a four-day terrorist siege that began September 21, and killed at least 67 people. A Somali intelligence official said the al-Shabab leader was the US target.