TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya's fragile interim government condemned the United States on Sunday for what it called the "kidnapping of a Libyan citizen" from the capital, Tripoli, a day earlier, and Libyan lawmakers threatened to remove Prime Minister Ali Zeidan if the government was involved.
The capture of the Libyan, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Anas al-Libi and was indicted on a charge of planning al-Qaida's 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, was so fast and left so few clues behind that Libyans were only slowly coming to terms with what had occurred. The government denied an American assertion that it had played a role in the operation amid anger that the nation's sovereignty had been violated.
President Barack Obama personally approved the raid by the U.S. Army's Delta Force and agents from the CIA and FBI, McClatchy Newspapers reported.
But as a measure of just how tired the Libyan public is of the chaos that has gripped the country since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, some Libyans angry at the raid expressed exasperation at their government's failures to bring any measure of security to its people.
"There is hardly very much that is going on, except that every three or four days there is a new assassination," said Mohammed Mufti, a Western-educated physician and liberal intellectual in Benghazi. "This government seems to be suffering terminal inertia."
The reaction to the capture of Abu Anas underscored the stakes for the United States as it gave up on waiting for the Libyan government to grow strong enough to challenge the militias that wield power, and detain fugitives living with impunity on Libyan soil.
For months, a swelling team of federal investigators, intelligence agents and Marines waited behind the barbed wire and gun turrets of the fortified compound around the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, aware of suspected terrorists at large in the streets -- including suspects in the killing last year of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi -- and increasingly frustrated at the inability of the weak Libyan government to move against them.
Now, with the Abu Anas raid, the Obama administration has signaled a limit to its patience. Two years after the United States backed the NATO intervention that removed Gadhafi, Washington has demonstrated a new willingness to pursue its targets directly, an action that has now prompted some of those suspected in Stevens' death to go into hiding, people in Libya said.
"Of course people are worried about it in Benghazi," said Mohammed Abu Sidra, a Benghazi Islamist leader and member of Parliament.
The capture of Abu Anas, who was returning home Saturday from early morning prayers, appeared to come off without a hitch from the U.S. point of view.
He was driving a black Hyundai sport utility vehicle to his three-story house in the Noflene neighborhood in the northeastern part of Tripoli when four vans with tinted windows rushed toward him from three directions, according to his son, Abdullah, 20, who was inside the house.
The wife of the al-Qaida suspect heard the commotion and watched from the window as about 10 armed men surrounded the car.
"They smashed his car window," Abdullah said in an interview. "There was blood on one of his sandals that was left behind, so we think he was injured from the broken glass."
Two Libyans among the group ordered his father to get into the minivan, which had a sliding side door, he said. "What's going on? What do you want?" Abu Anas asked, his son said, raising his voice apparently to alert the family inside the house. The Libyans told him to get inside the vehicle.
There was no shooting, his son said, and his father was not carrying a weapon.
"They were all new vehicles, with no license plates," he added. He expressed outrage at what the Libyan government called an abduction.
"We all came out to condemn the killing of the American ambassador, and what happens when this person is abducted in front of his house?" Abdullah said. "Do the human rights organizations make a statement about that?"world
McClatchy Newspapers contributed.