Pentagon Denies U.S. Forces Helped Arrest Islamist Leader

The Pentagon today denied a report that U.S. Special Forces, aided by Libyan troops, arrested the head of a Tunisia-based militant group linked to al-Qaeda.

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today that no U.S. military forces have been involved in any operations in Libya.

Tunisia’s state-run TAP reported, citing unidentified security officials, that Seifallah bin Hussein Mokni, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia who is also known as Abu Ayyad, was arrested in the Libyan city of Misrata along with several “people accompanying him.”

While U.S. forces captured Abu Anas al-Libi, another al-Qaeda suspect, in the Libyan capital Tripoli in October, Libyan state-run al-Nabaa television, citing unidentified security officials, denied that Abu Ayyad had been arrested or that U.S. forces are operating in Libya.

The Islamist had been wanted by Tunisian authorities for attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia in September 2012 -- violence that was triggered after the release of a film made in the U.S. that was widely seen in the Muslim world as insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Tunisian authorities also have blamed Ansar al-Sharia for the assassination of two opposition politicians whose killings compounded the unrest in the North African nation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Souhail Karam in Rabat at skaram5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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