Ex-Gitmo detainee joins al-Qaida in Yemen

Propaganda story attempts to justify Gitmo, torture

Report: Ex-Gitmo detainee joins al-Qaida in Yemen

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Writer Maggie Michael, Associated Press Writer – Fri Jan 23, 10:56 am ET

CAIRO, Egypt – A Saudi man released from Guantanamo after spending nearly six years inside the U.S. prison camp is now the No. 2 of Yemen's al-Qaida branch, according to a purported Internet statement from the terror network.

The announcement, made this week on a Web site commonly used by militants, came as President Barack Obama ordered the detention facility closed within a year. Many of the remaining detainees are from Yemen, which has long posed a vexing terrorism problem for the U.S.

The terror group's Yemen branch — known as "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula" — said the man, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, returned to his home in Saudi Arabia after his release from Guantanamo about a year ago and from there went to Yemen, which is Osama bin Laden's ancestral home.

The Internet statement, which could not immediately be verified, said al-Shihri was the group's second-in-command in Yemen, and his prisoner number at Guantanamo was 372.

"He managed to leave the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia) and join his brothers in al-Qaida," the statement said.

Documents released by the U.S. Defense Department show that al-Shihri was released from the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in November 2007 and transferred to his homeland. The documents confirmed his prisoner number was 372.

Saudi Arabian authorities wouldn't immediately comment on the statement. A Yemeni counterterrorism official would only say that Saudi Arabia had asked Yemen to turn over a number of wanted Saudi suspects who fled the kingdom last year for Yemen, and a man with the same name was among those wanted. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the press and would not provide more details.

Yemen is a U.S. ally in the fight against terror, but it also has been the site of numerous high-profile, al-Qaida-linked attacks including the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden, which killed 17 American sailors.

Yemen's government struggles to maintain order. Many areas of the California-size country are beyond government control and Islamic extremism is strong. Nearly 100 Yemeni detainees remain at Guantanamo, making up the biggest group of prisoners.

Al-Shihri's case highlights the complexity of Obama's decision to shut down the detention center within a year despite the absence of rehabilitation programs for ex-prisoners in some countries, including Yemen. The Pentagon also has said more former ex-detainees appear to be returning to the fight against the U.S. after their release.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, who heads the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence, said the reports about al-Shihri should not slow the Obama administration's determination to quickly close the prison.

"What it tells me is that President Obama has to proceed extremely carefully. But there is really no justification and there was no justification for disappearing people in a place that was located offshore of America so it was outside the reach of U.S. law," she told CBS's "The Early Show."

But Rep. Pete Hoekstra, of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the executive order Obama signed Thursday to close the facility as "very short on specifics."

Interviewed on the same program, he said there are indications that as many as 10 percent of the men released from Guantanamo are "back on the battlefield. They are attacking American troops."

The militant Web statement said al-Shihri's identity was revealed during a recent interview with a Yemeni journalist. That journalist, Abdelela Shayie, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Friday that 35-year-old Saudi man had joined the kingdom's rehabilitation program after his release and got married before leaving for Yemen.

Shayie said al-Shihri told him that several other former Guantanamo detainees had also come to Yemen to join al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is an umbrella group of various cells. Its current leader is Yemen's most wanted fugitive Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi, who was among 23 al-Qaida figures who escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006.

Since the prison break, al-Qaida managed to regroup. It set up training camps, has attracted hundreds of young men and launched dozens of bloody attacks against Westerners, government institutions and oil facilities. Most recently, gunmen and two vehicles packed with explosives attacked the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in September, killing 17 people, including six militants. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to the Defense Department, al-Shihri was stopped at a Pakistani border crossing in December 2001 with injuries from an airstrike and recuperated at a hospital. Within days of his release, he became one of the first detainees sent to Guantanamo.

Al-Shihri allegedly traveled to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, provided money to other fighters and trained in urban warfare at a camp north of Kabul, according to a summary of the evidence against him from U.S. military review panels at Guantanamo.

He also was accused of meeting extremists in Iran and briefing them on how to enter Afghanistan, according to the documents.

Al-Shihri, however, said he traveled to Iran to buy carpets. He said he felt bin Laden had no business representing Islam, denied any links to terrorism and expressed interest in rejoining his family.


Associated Press writer Ahmed al-Haj in San'a, Yemen contributed to this report.


Lies and fear mongering all over again

Please ask the journalist who wrote this piece:

"Has the American, Israeli and/or any other government directly or indirectly instructed or requested that you write supporting any of their actions, policies or positions, or helped to organize or in any way supported you in making any writings?"

Consider what VINCENT WARREN, executive director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights has to say about this planted article:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, interestingly, just the day after this order comes out (to close Guantanamo), the front-page story of the New York Times claiming that one of the former detainees there who was released has now become—reintegrated himself into the leadership of al-Qaeda, a Yemeni national who was released. And this is being obviously leaked by folks within the administration or within the government who are worried about the pending release of many of the other detainees. Your reaction to that?

VINCENT WARREN: Well, you know, my reaction, on behalf of us and the 600 lawyers that are working on this case, if the government was as good at releasing materials to the defence lawyers for these cases as they were to the New York Times, we’d all be in a much better situation.

This is clearly a ploy by the Republicans and for people who are not on board with the closing of this base as a way to scare the American public and to scare the Obama administration.

There are really kind of two pieces here. One is we’ve heard these kinds of claims before: “Trust us. These guys that have been released are going back to the battlefield.” Number one, when they’ve said that in the past, we’ve done a review of some of the people that they said went back to the battlefield, and it wasn’t even clear that some of these people were at Guantanamo to begin with.

The rule of law needs to be applied to the people who really are dangerous and the people who are innocent. And there are people at Guantanamo that are innocent, and those folks should not be held captive.

... I’ve been hearing “Trust me, we’re the government” for seven years, and most of it has not been true...