05 Jan 2010

Freed Guantanamo Prisoners Rejoin Jihad

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Said Ali al-Shihri, Ibrahim Suleiman al Rubaish (image ID not confirmed); Abdullah Saleh Ali al Ajmi; and Abdullah Mahsud thought the US was pretty stupid to let them go free to resume the fight

The London Times reports that early releases of detainees believed to be less dangerous resulted in a large number of cases of speedy returns to waging holy war against the West, sometimes in prominent leadership roles.

As the Obama Administration tries fulfilling its commitment to empty the prison facility at Guantanamo, prospective beneficiaries of repatriation will inevitably include precisely those detainees considered too obviously guilty and too certain to return to terrorist activities to be released earlier.

At least a dozen former Guantánamo Bay inmates have rejoined al-Qaeda to fight in Yemen, The Times has learnt, amid growing concern over the ability of the country’s Government to accept almost 100 more former inmates from the detention centre.

The Obama Administration promised to close the Guantánamo facility by January 22, a deadline that it will be unable to meet. The 91 Yemeni prisoners in Guantánamo make up the largest national contingent among the 198 being held.

Six prisoners were returned to Yemen last month. After the Christmas Day bomb plot in Detroit, US officials are increasingly concerned that the country is becoming a hot-bed of terrorism. …

The country’s mountainous terrain, poverty and lawless tribal society make it, in the opinion of many analysts, a close match for Afghanistan as a new terrorist haven. ..

A Yemeni, Hani Abdo Shaalan, who was released from Guantánamo in 2007, was killed in an airstrike on December 17, the Yemeni Government reported last week. The deputy head of al-Qaeda in the country is Said Ali al-Shihri, 36, who was released in 2007. Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, who was released in 2006, is a prominent ideologue featured on Yemeni al-Qaeda websites. …

The US Government issued figures in May showing that 74 of the 530 detainees in Guantánamo were suspected or known to have returned to terrorist activity since their release. They included the commander of the Taleban in Helmand province, Mullah Zakir, whom the British Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, called “a key and seemingly effective tactical leader”. Among others who returned to terrorism was Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi, a Kuwaiti who killed six Iraqis in Mosul in 2008.

The number believed to have “returned to the fight” in the May 2009 estimate was double that of a US estimate from June 2008. US officials acknowledged that more detainees were known to have reoffended since, but the number has been classified.

“There is a historic trend and it continues. I will only say that we have said there is a trend, we are aware of it, there is no denying the trend and we are doing our best to deal with this reality,” Mr Morrell said.

Officials said that a higher proportion of those still being held were likely to return to terrorism because they were considered more of a security threat than those selected in the early stages of the release programme.

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