After dawn prayers Oct. 5, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a wanted al-Qaeda terrorism suspect, returned to his family’s home in Tripoli, Libya.
He stopped his car in front of the house, nestled in an affluent neighborhood in the coastal capital city. It was 6:38 a.m. and still dark.
A white van trailing Ruqai pulled alongside his car. Then at least three men, with guns drawn, jumped out of the van as another car blocked Ruqai’s escape and a third vehicle idled down the street.
The men yanked Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Libi, out of his car and threw him in the van, according to a video of the abduction obtained by The Washington Post. The video, from a closedcircuit camera in the neighborhood, provides a rare glimpse of a U.S. covert operation and captures some of the bewildered reaction in Ruqai’s home once he had disappeared.
Ruqai’s detention immediately became international news and was unusual because of the involvement of the U.S. military in the kind of operation traditionally carried out by the CIA with foreign partners.
Less than two minutes after the Libyan was cornered, U.S. Special Operations forces sped away with the suspect and his vehicle. Ruqai was taken to a Libyan military base and then to the USS San Antonio, a warship waiting off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea.
Ruqai’s arrest, carried out in a joint operation by the CIA, the FBI and the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, ended a 13-year hunt for a man once thought to be close to Osama bin Laden. Ruqai is accused of participating in the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa, which resulted in more than 200 deaths.
He is awaiting trial in New York, held in the special housing unit of a jail across from the federal courthouse. At a hearing in October, Ruqai pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.
His attorney, Bernard Kleinman, says that Ruqai never swore an oath of allegiance, or bayat, to bin Laden and that he abandoned the East Africa conspiracy more than four years before the attacks took place.
“My client is innocent of any and all actions that either directly or indirectly resulted in the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998,” Kleinman said. “His trial will prove this beyond any doubt whatsoever.”