American Special Operations forces carried out two raids inside the sovereign territories of Muslim countries on Saturday night, writes Abdelbari Atwan.
The first targeted Abu Anas Libi in Tripoli, the second, the local al-Shabab headquarters in southern Somalia.
The first raid very much resembled the Israeli assassination of the martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas. According to al-Libi’s son, Abdullah, three cars were waiting for his father outside his home when he came back from the mosque after dawn prayers.
His wife saw everything from her window and described how “foreign-looking, armed commandos” smashed his car window and seized al-Libi’s gun before wrenching open the door and grabbing him. Other witnesses described the assailants as “Arabic-speaking” and said they drove off with al-Libi in one of the cars. His whereabouts are now unknown.
The second raid, in Somalia, targeted an al-Shabab leader implicated in the attack on the Nairobi Westgate massacre; it saw commandos from SEAL unit six – the same unit that allegedly killed Osama bin Laden – swim ashore before dawn and open fire on the waterfront building in Barawe where many young al-Shabab fighters were still asleep.
On this occasion, the Seal team met with much fiercer resistance than it had expected from the steadfast and courageous young fighters; after an hour-long gun battle, the American unit’s leader decided to abort the mission. The commandos jumped into the sea and swam back to their boats carrying their dead and wounded, having been unable to harm or capture the al-Shabab leader they were after.
Four questions arise before we can comment on what appears, to us, to be the most blatant US interference in the lands of two Moslem, African countries:
First: were the governments of either country consulted before the raids and, if so, did they then give the green light for the attacks?
Second: where did the US special operations commandos come from in order to carry out the attacks – particularly in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Did they come from Egypt or Tunisia or from US warships stationed in the Mediterranean, or from inside Libya itself?
Third: where have the US Special Ops taken Sheikh Abu Anas al-Libi? Will they take him to Guantanamo which President Obama promised to close during his first speech in Cairo at the start of his first term and where confessions were extracted under torture from men like al-Libi’s comrade in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, now one of the most prominent leaders in Libya?
Fourth: Who benefited from the $5 million bounty the Americans had placed on Abu Anas al-Libi’s head?
A US official told CNN television that the Libyan Government had been informed in advance of the raid carried out by US special forces in broad daylight, but Libyan Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan denied this, saying he had demanded an explanation from Washington and stressing that Libya was “keen on prosecuting any Libyan citizen inside Libya.” However, his keenness is one thing, and reality is another.
The US Government led the NATO military intervention in Libya, declaring that it wanted to see a secure, stable and democratic future for the nation – and here it is: following NATO’s “liberation,” Libya is a failed state and its liberators do not hesitate to become the first to violate its sovereignty and insult the dignity of its citizens and its putative Government.
Ironically, a Libyan government spokesperson said they hoped the incident would not affect its strategic relationship with the US.
What exactly is this strategic relationship? It’s essentially a state of total and humiliating dependency whereby the “liberated” nation is meant to thank the invaders and, like a banana republic, let the master do exactly as he likes with no need to consult that nation’s “leaders” who have neither weight nor respect.
Prime Minister Zeidan presides over a government which is as weak and ineffective as the government in Mogadishu. These administrations are unable to assume security responsibilities or to protect the sovereignty of their territories.
We opposed the NATO military intervention in Libya from day one, just as we opposed intervention in Iraq and the putative intervention in Syria. We warned that Libya would turn into a failed state like Somalia.
We did not issue this warning in order to defend the dictatorship of Muammar al-Gaddafi – even though we have been blamed, insulted and cursed as if we had done so. We simply wished to stress, politely, that all efforts should be made to avoid Libya becoming another Somalia after the fall of the dictatorship and the absence of a strong alternative government.
Al-Qaida in Libya and in the Islamic Maghreb are unlikely to take kindly to the arrest of the man who may well have been the “number three” in al-Qaeda central, after the late Sheikh Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qaida and its affiliates have been expanding their presence in the past decade throughout Africa, recruiting thousands from many countries to their ranks.
This latest American move is sheer folly because al-Qaida is no longer constrained by geography, it has people from all over the world in its ranks and has become a master of digital communications.
We would not be surprised if plans for revenge attacks on US targets are already under way.