Tunisia militant leader Saifallah Benahssine arrested in Libya, local media says

Abu Iyadh, then-leader of Tunisian Salafists is pictured during a meeting on May 20, 2012, in Kairouan, Tunisia. FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

Last Updated Dec 30, 2013 8:38 AM EST

TUNIS -- U.S. and Libyan forces captured Saifallah Benahssine, the leader of Tunisia's Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia, in the Libyan city of Misrata on Monday, Tunisia's state news agency TAP said, citing a security source.

The U.S. embassy in Libya and Libyan government officials did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the arrest of Benahssine, also known as Abu Iyadh.

But the capture of such a high-ranking Tunisian Islamist militant in Libya would indicate close ties among Islamist groups across North Africa. In October, U.S. forces captured a top al Qaeda suspect in a raid in Tripoli.

A former fighter in Afghanistan, Benahssine had declared loyalty to al Qaeda and was accused of inciting an attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunisia in September 2012.

Ansar al-Sharia was one of the hardline groups to emerge after the Tunisia's revolt against its autocratic leader three years ago. Militant violence has increased in Tunisia since the government began a crackdown on the group this year. 

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