Libyan on Trial for US Embassy Bombings Dies at 50

January 3, 2015 Updated: January 3, 2015

CAIRO—Abu Anas al-Libi, a man accused by federal prosecutors of being an al-Qaeda member involved in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, died of complications from liver surgery, his wife said Saturday. He was 50.

U.S. 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 bounty out for his capture. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was awaiting trial.

On Saturday, his wife, Um Abdullah, told The Associated Press 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,” Abullah said.

In a court filing Saturday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Libi died Friday night.

“Despite the care provided at the hospital, his condition deteriorated rapidly and (he) passed away,” Bharara wrote.

Al-Libi, also known as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was indicted in December 2000 of being involved in the twin 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.

Then, prosecutors at the federal court in the Southern District of New York accused al-Libi of sitting on a consultation council for al-Qaeda which discussed and approved terrorist operations.

Al-Libi was believed to be a computer specialist with al-Qaeda. He studied electronic and nuclear engineering, graduating from Tripoli University, and opposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi’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-Libi 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, U.S. officials said they believed he was hiding in Afghanistan.

Al-Libi apparently returned to Libya a year before the revolt that toppled and killed Gadhafi in 2011, a close friend said.

He disappeared from view until October 2013, when the U.S. Army’s Delta Force swooped into Tripoli and seized him. He had just parked his car outside his Tripoli home after dawn prayers when 10 commandos in multiple vehicles surrounded him, his brother Nabih al-Ruqai said at the time. They smashed his car’s window and seized his gun before grabbing al-Libi and fleeing.

Al-Libi eventually was taken to a U.S. naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, where he was seasick for a week in an uncomfortably hot room while undergoing CIA questioning, his lawyer Bernard Kleinman later said.

Kleinman has said al-Libi was only accused of participating in visual and photographic surveillance of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in late 1993 and researching potential sites for other attacks with members of al-Qaeda in 1994.

On Saturday, al-Libi’s wife said her husband underwent liver surgery three weeks ago, went into a coma and was moved prematurely back to prison where he suffered complications.

His wife said that she spoke to al-Libi 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 for enough time in hospital.”

On Friday, she said a lawyer told her that al-Libi returned to hospital where he was placed on a ventilator, and “he was dying then.”

From The Associated Press