"With respect to Abu Anas al-Liby, he is a key al-Qaeda figure, and he is a legal and an appropriate target for the US military," Kerry said to gathered reporters while at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit ongoing in Indonesia.
Kerry's comments were in reaction to complaints from the Libyan government, which had not been informed in advance of the U.S. Delta Force raid.
"The Libyan government has been following the reports of the kidnap of one of the Libyan citizens wanted by the authorities in the United States," the Libyan government said in a statement Sunday, after the raid became public knowledge. "As soon as it heard the reports, the Libyan government contacted the US authorities to demand an explanation."
Al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was taken off the street by masked gunmen armed with pistols. Al-Liby's son, Abdullah al-Raghie, said the men looked Libyan and spoke with a Libyan dialect, but the government in Tripoli has denied involvement.
Al-Liby was taken to a U.S. Navy warship in the Mediterranean, where he is being interrogated in advance of his transfer to the U.S. He has already been indicted in New York for his alleged involvement in the 1998 embassy attacks, which killed 224 people in Kenya and Tanzania.
Kerry, in defending the action, said the raid's success meant terrorists could "run, but can't hide."
“We hope this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror," Kerry said. "Those members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can't hide. We will continue to try to bring people to justice in an appropriate way with hopes that ultimately these kinds of activities against everybody in the world will stop.''
The U.S. also carried out a raid Saturday in Somalia, where a group of Navy SEALs targeted an al-Shabaab leader also believed to be connected to the embassy bombings. The SEALs were met by heavy fire, and made the decision to withdraw without confirming if they had killed their target, a man identified as Ikrami.