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U.S. nabs al Qaeda leader in Libya

A busy weekend in counter-terrorism

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For U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, it was a busy weekend, which produced an important victory.

Four vans with tinted windows converged in a comfortable Tripoli neighborhood as a leader of Al Qaeda returned home on Saturday from early morning prayers. As his wife watched with alarm from a window, the men -- armed with silencer-equipped weapons, some masked and some not -- smashed his car window. Within moments, they were gone, taking with them one of America's most wanted terror suspects. [...]The seizure of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, better known as Abu Anas al-Libi, from outside his home in Tripoli, where he was living largely in the open, represented a long-sought victory for the United States.

If his name sounds familiar, there's a good reason: Abu Anas al-Libi is believed to be responsible for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Note, while we've grown accustomed to hearing about counter-terrorism missions involving drone strikes in remote areas, this was a very different kind of mission. There were no drones, pilots, or missiles; there were four vans with no license plates who stopped the suspect's vehicle, grabbed him, and sped away. The alleged terrorist isn't dead; he will instead be interrogated and be brought to trial.

The weekend, however, was not without setbacks in this area.

From the same New York Times report:

Around the same time about 3,000 miles away, highly trained commandos from the same Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden slipped out of the sea and stormed into a villa in Somalia to capture another man high on America's target list. Met by a hail of bullets and then a lengthy gunfight, they withdrew without their quarry from a country best known to many Americans as the scene of "Black Hawk Down." [...]Mr. Obama, who authorized both raids, made no comment about them on Sunday. But administration officials acknowledged that the Somalia operation went awry. "It did not achieve the objective," said one official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive operations. "It achieved other things in the sense that these guys are now trying to figure out what happened, trying to figure out who dimed out who, and there's a certain amount of confusion there."

It's a good thing the officials involved in the missions weren't furloughed, isn't it? The federal government may be shut down, but national security operations are not.