Suspected terrorist Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai appeared in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday to plead not guilty to charges that he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of US embassies in Africa in 1998. Since his arrest [JURIST report] earlier this month, Ruqai has been undergoing interrogation aboard the US warship where he was being held. He had stopped eating or drinking during the interrogation, aggravating a chronic medical condition. Officials cited these medical issues as contributing to their decision to cease their interrogation and bring him to court. The arrest and interrogation of Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi, is expected to yield substantial intelligence about al Qaeda, with which he is alleged to have been involved since its earliest days. Ruqai is now in the custody of the Justice Department and will be appointed a lawyer [ABC News report]. Ruqai has been on the FBI's Most Wanted list since its inception, and a $5 million reward was offered for his capture.
The 1998 Embassy bombings killed more than 200 people including 12 Americans. The attacks are thought to have been planned by the terrorist group al Qaeda. In May, 2011 US President Barack Obama [official profile] announced [JURIST report] that a small team of US military personnel had killed al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden [WP obituary; JURIST news archive]. Bin Laden had topped the US list of Most Wanted Terrorists [materials] and was believed to have approved or helped plan many notorious terror attacks including those against New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole [JURIST news archives], the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.