Ansar al Sharia Tunisia denies emir was captured by US forces in Libya

Earlier today, media outlets in North Africa reported that Seifallah ben Hassine (also known as Abu Iyad al Tunisi), the emir of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, was captured during a combined US and Libyan raid in the city of Misrata. Below is an example from Tunis Afrique Presse:

Abu Iyad whose real name is Seifallah Ben Hussein Mokni, leader of Ansar al Sharia group listed as a “terrorist organisation” was captured, on Monday morning in Libya, authorised security source said.

US special forces captured Abu Iyad and other several persons accompanying him, with the assistance of Libyan forces and Libyan citizens, the same source said. Abu Iyad was captured in the town of Misrata, Libya.

Interim PM Ali Larayedh confirmed last August 27 the organisation’s involvement in terrorist acts and in political assassination in Tunisia, listing it as a “terrorist organisation”.

However, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia released a statement denying that ben Hassine was captured. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. SITE’s summary of the statement is below:

Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia denied the capture of its leader, Abu Iyad al Tunisi, by U.S. and Libyan forces in the Libyan city of Misrata. In a statement posted on its Twitter account on December 30, 2013, the group charged that the “lying media” deliberated invented the story of Abu Iyad’s capture in order to push Salafist youth into a physical response. It added: “Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia takes the hands of its youth in particular, and the youth of the Salafist current in general, to be careful with themselves from such rumors, the publishers of which cannot be sated or refreshed in their market without lying and falsifying. Evil indeed is that which they shall bear!”


The US denied that it captured Abu Iyad. From Reuters:

“U.S. forces were not involved in any operations regarding Ansar Al Sharia leader Abou Iyadh today in Libya,” a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command said.

U.S. security officials told Reuters that U.S. intelligence agencies and their personnel also were not involved in any operation against Abu Iyad.

For more information on Abu Iyad al Tunisi, Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia, and the group’s ties to al Qaeda and involvement in the Sept. 14, 2012 attack on the US Embassy in Tunis, see the following LWJ reports:

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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