(NBC) - In twin raids in Africa on Saturday, U.S. commandos captured two of the world's most-wanted terrorists – a senior al Qaeda official who allegedly planned 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania and a "high-level target" from Somalia's al Shabaab, sources tell NBC News.
Word of the dual operations came in quick succession, with the sources first saying that U.S. Special Operations forces captured the unidentified "high-value target" during a pre-dawn raid on an al Shabaab stronghold in southern Somalia, striking back at the Islamic militant group blamed for the recent attack on a Kenyan shopping mall.
A short time later, sources said that U.S. forces also had captured Anas al Libi, a longtime al Qaeda member, near Tripoli, Libya. Al Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai'I, has been wanted for more than a decade by the U.S. and has a $5 million reward on his head.
Al Libi has been a member of al Qaeda since at least 1994 and was a confidante of Osama bin Laden. He also is a computer expert for the group and is believed to be one of the masterminds of the 1998 U.S. Embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 12 Americans and more than 220 Kenyans. He has been indicted in New York in connection with the attacks and could ultimately be brought to the U.S. to stand trial.
In discussing the Somalia raid, the sources declined to identify the target of the operation, but one senior US official said, "It was a very good day."
Early reports from the region said there was heavy gunfire during an assault by foreign forces on a building or complex in the southern Somali town of Barawe.
Al Shabaab had claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall that killed dozens of people in Nairobi, Kenya, two weeks ago.
The sources said they have no information that any British were involved in the actual raid. Al Shabaab had reported earlier that a British commander and several commandos were killed in the raid conducted by British and Turkish forces. Turkey has denied its forces were involved.