Gitmo alum heads Yemen Qaeda franchise?

Fox News is having a field day with reports that a Saudi man who was released from Guantánamo Bay after a six-year stint has joined al-Qaeda‘s branch in Yemen and is now said to be the terror network’s number-two in the country. The announcement, made this week on an Islamist militant website, comes as President Barack Obama ordered the detention facility closed within a year.

The Yemen franchise—known as “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”—said the man, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, returned to his home in Saudi Arabia after his release from Gitmo about a year ago and from there went to Yemen. 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 Guantánamo was 372. “He managed to leave the land of the two shrines [Saudi Arabia] and join his brothers in al-Qaeda,” the statement said.

US Defense Department department show that al-Shihri was stopped at a Pakistani border crossing in December 2001 with injuries from an air-strike and recuperated at a hospital in Quetta for a month and a half before being transfered to Guantánamo. He was released in November 2007 and deported to his homeland. The documents confirm his prisoner number was 372. “The lesson here is, whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them,” an unnamed US official told the New York Times.

Reports failed to note that Morocco has also convicted an ex-Gitmo detainee on terrorism charges. But World War 4 Report asks: Is it surprising that someone who spent six years at Guantánamo Bay should perhaps be a wee bit teed off at the USA?

  1. Report: more Gitmo alumni re-join jihad
    From the New York Times, Jan. 27:

    9 Alumni of Saudi Program for Ex-Jihadists Are Arrested
    BEIRUT, Lebanon — Nine graduates of an influential Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists, including some who had been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, have been arrested for rejoining terrorist groups since the program started in 2004, Saudi officials said Monday.

    The Saudi Interior Ministry acknowledged the arrests after it emerged late last week that two other graduates had joined the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda, raising questions about how the Saudis lost track of them. Both had been released from Guantánamo, in Cuba, in 2007, and one of the men is suspected of having helped plan a deadly attack in Yemen last year.

    The statement on Monday about the arrests appeared to be an effort by the Saudi authorities to underline their vigilance, despite the lapses, in keeping track of former militants.

    Hundreds of men have passed through the Saudi program, and it has been viewed as a model for similar efforts elsewhere. Late last year, Saudi officials said none of the program’s graduates had returned to violence, but the statement about the arrests, which took place separately over the course of the past few years, appeared to contradict that.

    It is not clear how many of the nine men had been at Guantánamo, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry. The rehabilitation program also includes people who were convicted of involvement in terrorist activities or groups inside Saudi Arabia.

    “When they were released from the program they were O.K., but in one way or another they were recruited again” by terrorist groups, General Turki said. The program, which includes religious re-education, therapy and assistance with reintegrating the former jihadists into their families and jobs, is more comprehensive than earlier, similar efforts in Yemen and Egypt, and appears over all to have been more successful.

    If doubts are raised about the Saudi program, they could complicate President Obama’s plan to close the Guantánamo detention center within a year, as required by one of his first executive orders after taking office last week. Almost half of the remaining prisoners there are Yemeni, and their return home depends in part on Yemen’s creation of a rehabilitation program, paid for partly by the United States, that is modeled on the Saudi one.

    Pentagon officials have said that 61 of the more than 525 Guantánamo detainees who have been released have returned to terrorism. That claim has generated some skepticism, and the Pentagon is expected to declassify portions of a report on the subject in the coming days.