In storming the coastal Somalia home of a leader of Shabab, the Somali-based group that claimed responsibility for last month's massacre inside a shopping mall in Nairobi, the Obama administration opted to put
The suspect sought in the raid was not captured, though he may have been killed in a firefight that ultimately forced the U.S. force to withdraw, officials said. Unconfirmed reports Sunday indicated the U.S. operation was aimed at Shabab's charismatic leader, Ahmed Godane, who recently carried out an internal purge of the organization.
In Libya, where a joint operation by
Still, sending the U.S. military to lead the capture marked a tactical change in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.
CIA paramilitary teams grabbed scores of suspected Al Qaeda operatives and supporters off the streets of Pakistan, the Middle East and even Italy in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. But the agency stopped capturing suspects after its harsh interrogation and secret detention program came to light and the agency closed its so-called "black site" prisons overseas.
For the U.S. military to conduct a capture in the capital of a country in which it is not conducting military operations "is extremely rare," one senior congressional aide said.
"I think this goes along with this policy that they are trying to move counter-terrorism operations from CIA to Defense, and trying to operate less with drones," said the aide, who was not authorized to be quoted discussing the sensitive operations.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, praised the "exceptional work" of U.S. military and intelligence agencies in capturing Abu Anas al Liby, who is now being held outside Libya.
President Obama "has made clear our preference for capturing terrorist targets when possible, and that's exactly what we've done in order to elicit as much valuable intelligence as we can and bring a dangerous terrorist to justice," Hayden said.
"This operation should be a clear reminder that the United States will seek justice against those who would attack Americans, and never forgets those who are victims of terrorism," she added.