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WASHINGTON — Abu Anas al-Libi, the al-Qaeda leader captured earlier this month in Libya, has been transferred to federal custody in New York, U.S. officials said Monday.

New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Libi, indicted more than a decade ago by U.S. authorities in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, was expected to appear in federal court Tuesday after being detained and interrogated on a U.S. warship.

A computer operations expert and core member of the terrorist organization, al-Libi was captured Oct. 5 and had been held on the USS San Antonio.

A federal law enforcement official said the timing of al-Libi's transfer was related, at least in part, to an undisclosed medical condition. The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the condition was "pre-existing'' and unrelated to his capture.

Yet the transfer of the suspect is certain to revive the debate over whether terrorist suspects should be handed over to military authorities for interrogation as enemy combatants or face prosecution in civilian court.

Shortly after al-Libi's capture in Tripoli, a group of Republican lawmakers, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, called for the al-Qaeda leader to be moved to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he could be subjected to full interrogation.

An expedited move to the civilian court system, the senator suggested, could undermine the effort to obtain any intelligence al-Libi may have.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Monday that al-Libi was moved too soon to the federal criminal justice system.

"In just over one week, one of the world's most wanted terror suspects was questioned and then brought to New York where he is being afforded the rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens, including the right to remain silent,'' Goodlatte said. "I find it hard to believe that 15 years of intelligence was gathered in just a few days of interrogation. It certainly begs the question whether rushing foreign terrorists into U.S. courts is a strategy that is in the best interests of the United States."

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday that al-Libi's transfer "shows that the United States acts out of strength and not out of fear.''

"We are not afraid of terrorists, nor are we afraid to bring them to justice in our courts,'' Leahy said. "The indefinite detention of al-Libi at Guantanamo would have been unnecessary and unwise.''

The government's handling of terror suspects has proved particularly divisive since 2009 when Attorney General Eric Holder first proposed prosecuting 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other associates in a New York federal court. Holder later referred the suspects to the military justice system after facing a storm of opposition from some lawmakers and 9/11 family members who cited a constellation of concerns, from security costs to fears of possible retaliation by terrorist groups.

Still, Holder has argued that the civilian justice system is more than equipped to deal with terrorist defendants. Among those have been a string of suspects implicated in the same 1998 embassy attacks that killed 224.

In 2001, four operatives were sentenced to life prison terms. And as recently as 2011, another operative, Ahmed Ghailani, also was sentenced to life in prison. Though Ghailani was acquitted on more than 200 counts — raising more questions about the administration's prosecution strategy — the government salvaged the case with a conviction on one count of conspiracy to destroy government property.

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