AN ALLEGED al-Qaeda leader has died just days before going on trial in New York over 1998 US embassy attacks in Africa that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.
Abu Anas al-Liby, 50, is reported to have died of complications from liver surgery, in hospital on Friday, his wife and lawyers say.
Al-Liby was seized in a US raid in Tripoli in October 2013 and was due to stand trial on 12 January over the embassy attacks, in Kenya and Tanzania. His wife, Um Abdullah, accused the US government yesterday of “kidnapping, mistreating and killing an innocent man”.
Al-Liby, whose real name was Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, previously pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.
US forces raided Libya in 2013 and seized him in the streets of the capital, Tripoli, bringing him back to America to stand trial, where the FBI had placed a $5 million (£3.3m) bounty out for his capture. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was awaiting trial. In a court filing yesterday US Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Liby died on Friday night.
“Despite the care provided at the hospital, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away,” Bharara wrote.
His wife said that the experience only worsened his ailments, including hepatitis C, leading to his death.
“I accuse the American government of kidnapping, mistreating, and killing an innocent man. He did nothing,” she said.
Al-Liby was indicted in December 2000 of being involved in the twin 1998 bombings at the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Then, prosecutors at the federal court in the Southern District of New York accused al-Liby of sitting on a consultation council for al-Qaeda which discussed and approved terrorist operations.
Al-Liby was believed to be a computer specialist with al-Qaeda.
He studied electronic and nuclear engineering, graduating from Tripoli University, and opposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.
He is believed to have spent time in Sudan, where Osama bin Laden was based in the early 1990s. After bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan, al-Liby turned up in Britain in 1995, where he was granted political asylum under unclear circumstances, and lived in Manchester.
He was arrested by Scotland Yard in 1999, but released because of lack of evidence and later fled Britain. After his indictment, US officials said they believed he was hiding in Afghanistan.
Al-Liby apparently returned to Libya a year before the revolt that toppled and killed Gaddafi in 2011, a close friend said.
He disappeared from view until October 2013, when the US Army’s Delta Force seized him in Tripoli. He had just parked his car outside his home after dawn prayers when ten commandos in multiple vehicles surrounded him, his brother, Nabih al-Ruqai, said at the time. They smashed his car window and seized his gun before grabbing al-Liby and fleeing.
Al-Liby eventually was taken to a US naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, where he was seasick for a week in an overheated room while undergoing CIA questioning, his lawyer Bernard Kleinman later said.
Kleinman has said al-Liby was only accused of participating in visual and photographic surveillance of the US embassy in Nairobi in late 1993 and researching potential sites for other attacks with members of al-Qaeda in 1994.
Yesterday, al-Liby’s wife said her husband underwent liver surgery three weeks ago, lapsed into a coma and was moved prematurely back to prison where he suffered complications.
She said she spoke to al-Liby last time from prison on Thursday. “His voice was weak and he was in a bad condition,” she said. “It seems they didn’t keep him enough time in hospital.”
On Friday, she said a lawyer told her that al-Liby returned to hospital where he was placed on a ventilator, and “he was dying then”.