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Freed Gitmo Detainee Now Al Qaeda Chief

From a suddenly outraged New York Times:

Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief

By ROBERT F. WORTH

January 23, 2009

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.

“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”

The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications.

Almost half the camp’s remaining detainees are Yemenis, and efforts to repatriate them depend in part on the creation of a Yemeni rehabilitation program — partly financed by the United States — similar to the Saudi one. Saudi Arabia has claimed that no graduate of its program has returned to terrorism.

“The lesson here is, whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them,” the American official said.

Although the Pentagon has said that dozens of released Guantánamo detainees have “returned to the fight,” its claim is difficult to document, and has been met with skepticism. In any case, few of the former detainees, if any, are thought to have become leaders of a major terrorist organization like Al Qaeda in Yemen, a mostly homegrown group that experts say has been reinforced by foreign fighters. ..

American officials say they suspect that Mr. Shihri may have been involved in the car bombings outside the American Embassy in Sana last September that killed 16 people, including six attackers.

In the Internet statement, Al Qaeda in Yemen identified its new deputy leader as Abu Sayyaf al-Shihri, saying he returned from Guantánamo to his native Saudi Arabia and then traveled to Yemen “more than 10 months ago.” That corresponds roughly to the return of Mr. Shihri, a Saudi who was released from Guantánamo in November 2007. Abu Sayyaf is a nom de guerre, commonly used by jihadists in place of their real name or first name.

A Saudi security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia last year after finishing the rehabilitation program.

A Yemeni journalist who interviewed Al Qaeda’s leaders in Yemen last year, Abdulela Shaya, confirmed Thursday that the deputy leader was indeed Mr. Shihri, the former Guantánamo detainee. Mr. Shaya, in a phone interview, said Mr. Shihri had described to him his journey from Cuba to Yemen and supplied his Guantánamo detention number, 372. That is the correct number, Pentagon documents show.

“It seems certain from all the sources we have that this is the same individual who was released from Guantánamo in 2007,” said Gregory Johnsen, a terrorism analyst and the editor of a forthcoming book, “Islam and Insurgency in Yemen.”

Mr. Shihri, 35, trained in urban warfare tactics at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Pentagon as part of his Guantánamo dossier. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan via Bahrain and Pakistan, and he later told American investigators that his intention was to do relief work, the documents say. He was wounded in an airstrike and spent a month and a half recovering in a hospital in Pakistan.

The documents state that Mr. Shihri met with a group of “extremists” in Iran and helped them get into Afghanistan. They also say he was accused of trying to arrange the assassination of a writer, in accordance with a fatwa, or religious order, issued by an extremist cleric.

However, under a heading describing reasons for Mr. Shihri’s possible release from Guantánamo, the documents say he claimed that he traveled to Iran “to purchase carpets for his store” in Saudi Arabia. They also say that he denied knowledge of any terrorists or terrorist activities, and that he “related that if released, he would like to return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wherein he would reunite with his family.”

“The detainee stated he would attempt to work at his family’s furniture store if it is still in business,” the documents say.

The Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda has carried out a number of terrorist attacks over the past year, culminating in the assault on the American Embassy in Sana on Sept. 16. In that assault, the attackers disguised themselves as Yemeni policemen and detonated two car bombs. The group has also begun releasing sophisticated Internet material, in what appears to be a bid to gain more recruits…

We question the timing of this report.

These stories are legion. Normally, they would be left to die in out of the way news outlets, such as where this story first appeared.

Why has the New York Times waited until Mr. Obama’s executive order establishing a committee to look at how to close Guantanamo and what to do with its denizen to print one of these accounts?

Is it to give him cover for not closing Gitmo as quickly as he had promiised?

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, January 23rd, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “Freed Gitmo Detainee Now Al Qaeda Chief”

  1. 1laidbackRN says:

    From the International Herald Tribune:

    Guantánamo detainee resurfaces in terrorist group

    By Robert F. Worth Published: January 23, 2009

    BEIRUT: The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order that President Barack Obama signed that the detention center be shut down within a year.

    The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

    His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by a U.S. counterterrorism official. “They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/23/mideast/detainee.1-414168.php

    • gipper says:

      “…passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists…”

      Exactly what does a jihadist rehabilitation program look like? It did not work. I guess the guy fell off the wagon.

    • 1laidbackRN says:

      “Exactly what does a jihadist rehabilitation program look like?”

      I believe it would look a lot like “summer camp” for terrorist. Hosted by our good friends the Saudi’s, and payed for by…..wait for it….. the good ole USA.

  2. caligirl9 says:

    WTF? A jihadist rehabilitation program? Is it like a 12-step program? Rehab? Shock therapy? Antidepressants? Ritalin?

    Now that’s an episode of “Intervention” I’d like to see: “My name is Hussein, I am a member of Al Qaeda.”

    Family member: “I give him money for bombs because I don’t want him to go into prostitution or stealing or dealing drugs. Those things are illegal.”

    Interventionist to family: “We have to make him hit bottom today. If he doesn’t go to treatment, what are the consequences?

  3. GuppyNblue says:

    “The Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda has carried out a number of terrorist attacks over the past year, culminating in the assault on the American Embassy in Sana on Sept. 16.”

    Any surviving family members should start raising funds to sue the ACLU for their participation in freeing this terrorist. The prisoners at Guantánamo are there for a reason. We can disagree on how to detain or interrogate them, but just setting them free results in people dying.

    Like SG pointed out, the timing of the report is like a 5,000 lb purple polka-dotted gorilla in the room. It’s beyond suspect.

    • proreason says:

      Well, we already knew it, but it’s just further proof that the Slimes is, as SG puts it, the mouthpiece of the DNC, now renamed the ONC. If the Slimes was purely ideological, the cretins would never have published this. Like for Obamastein’s puppet-masters, ideology is critical to the Slimes, but not nearly as critical as power.

  4. retire05 says:

    Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General under the oh, so competent Janet Reno, and the person who facilitated the pardons for 16 terrorists and the arms dealer, Marc Rich seems to be highly sympathtic to terrorists.

    Holder is/was a senior partner to Covington & Burling, LLC

    http://www.cov.com/eholder

    From Covington & Burling’s website:

    “The firm represents 17 Yemeni nationals and one Pakistani citizen held at Guantanamo Bay”.

    Covington & Burling also wrote an amicus brief in support of Hamden, in Hamden vs. Rumsfeld.

    Add to that:

    Former Gitmo detainee now head of AQ/Yemen

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/world/middleeast/23yemen.html?ref=world

    Now, don’t y’all feel a lot safer with Eric Holder as the new U.S. Attorney General?

  5. Big E says:

    “Is it to give him cover for not closing Gitmo as quickly as he had promised?”

    No, it’s because the NYT cares deeply about the security of this country.

    Eh, actually I’m thinking it’s probably more what you said.

  6. BillK says:

    But see, this was because Bush released him.

    Obama will be much more careful about such things, releasing prisoners into the general US population rather than to Saudi Arabia…

    • Liberals Demise says:

      But…but…but we don’t have any jihadist rehab program here. Wait, I know….lets see if Congress will build them one in John Murthas backyard. Why….they can sit around the camp fires and tell war stories and pull one anothers finger to see who can cut the loudest fart. Gee….that sounds “swell”, does it not?

  7. proreason says:

    No need for rehab for the naughty scamps. They have suffered at bushhitler’s hands without habeas corpus or counsel from the aclu for 5 years, and so have paid their dues to sociey and must be allowed back to their popsicle delivery jobs.


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