WASHINGTON – After a weeklong interrogation aboard a U.S. warship, a Libyan al-Qaida suspect is now in New York awaiting trial on terrorism charges, U.S. 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 U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, confirmed that al-Libi was transferred to law enforcement custody over the weekend. Al-Libi was expected to be arraigned Tuesday, Bharara said.
President Barack Obama’s administration took criticism years ago when it decided to prosecute admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh 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 U.S. officials said al-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 U.S.S. San Antonio in the Mediterranean. Interrogations at sea have replaced CIA black sites as the U.S. government’s preferred method for holding suspected terrorists and questioning them without access to lawyers.
Al-Libi’s al-Qaida 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.
Al-Libi has longstanding health issues and will get medical testing while in custody to determine whether he needs treatment, U.S. officials said. Where exactly al-Libi is being held and where that testing would take place is unclear.
Al-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-Qaida.
Known as one of al-Qaida’s early computer experts, al-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.