U.S. denies forces involved in possible arrest of Tunisia militant

WASHINGTON Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:35am EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military did not take part in any operation on Monday against the head of Tunisian militant group Ansar al Sharia, a military spokesman said, as Tunisia's state media reported that U.S. and Libyan forces had captured the Islamist leader.

"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.

Tunisia's state news agency TAP said that U.S. and Libyan forces captured Saifallah Benahssine, the leader of Tunisia's Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia and a veteran of Afghanistan who is also known as Abu Iyad, in the Libyan city of Misrata on Monday.

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

Some U.S. officials believed that Abu Iyad had indeed been captured, while others said that reports of his capture had not been confirmed and cannot be considered reliable.

(Reporting By Missy Ryan and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Chris Reese)

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