Photos that appeared on a Libyan magazine website and jihadi Internet forums do not show Abu Anas al-Libi, the alleged al-Qaeda terrorist seized in Tripoli, Libya, by U.S. commandos, according to members of his family and observers who attended his arraignment in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday.
NBCNews.com included three of the photos in a story published last weekend. They show a man being honored for his role in the Libyan revolution.
The images were first published by a Libyan news outlet, the Libyan Political Dialogue, and on top al Qaeda forums and websites. Evan Kohlmann of Flashpoint Intelligence, an NBC News counterterrorism analyst and expert who monitors extremist websites, provided NBC News with the images after two U.S. officials also identified the man as al-Libi.
However, when al-Libi was arraigned on Tuesday on conspiracy charges for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, it became clear the man in the photos was not al-Libi.
Moreover, al-Libi’s wife and two of his sons told an NBC News producer in Tripoli that the photos are actually those of an imam at a local mosque. The family also showed the producer a recent photo of al-Libi, who looked nothing like the man in the photos.
U.S. officials have told NBC News that al-Libi, whose birth name is Nazih Abdul Hamed Al-Raghie, was still involved in fundamentalist Islamic activities while living openly in Libya. The officials say that in the final days of the Libyan uprising, al-Libi returned to Tripoli and added his voice to calls for the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime and encouraged his son to join the rebels. His family and U.S. officials say al-Libi's son, Abdel Rahman, was killed in 2011 during the rebels’ final assault on Tripoli.
Officials say al-Libi played a key role in in the twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998, attacks that killed 223 people, including 12 Americans. In a federal grand jury indictment in New York, he is accused of helping plan the attacks and of conducting surveillance of the embassy and other diplomatic facilities in Nairobi. According to testimony at an earlier embassy bombing trial, it was al-Libi, who was in London at the time of the attacks, who first proposed the bombing of foreign embassies in 1993.
Al-Libi’s family has strongly denied he was involved in the bombings and say he became disillusioned with and split from al Qaeda. In the intervening years, the family has said he and they moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan and then to Iran, where they were imprisoned for several years. In 2011, al-Libi returned to Tripoli.
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First published October 16 2013, 4:33 PM