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Suicide bombing by former GITMO prisoner highlights danger

When former Guantanamo detainee, Kuwaiti Abdullah Saleh Al Ajmi, blew himself up in an attack in Iraq last month, neither Pentagon officials nor anyone in counterterrorism should have been surprised.

Al Ajmi was one of two Kuwaitis who took part in a suicide attack in Mosul that targeted an Iraqi police patrol. The blast killed seven people, including two police officers, and maimed 28.

Al Ajmi's last words – contained in a transcript of his conversation in a jihadist chat room, and a suicide message on tape, both posted on Websites devoted to Al Qaeda - were a rallying cry for Muslims to join the jihad against Americans.

An announcement on a jihadist Website declared Al Ajmi was a "hero" of the  jiahd.

Pentagon officials had been trying to keep track of Al Ajmi – who they apparently lost the scent of when he left Kuwait for Syria – ever since he was repatriated to Kuwait in November, 2005. He had been free on bail there awaiting trial on charges he helped to raise money for Al Qaeda. reported last year that defense and intelligence officials have consistently stated that many of the men held at Guantanamo would kill again if given the chance. At that that time they believe at least 22 – but possibly many more – former detainees have returned to the global battlefield to engage in terrorism against the West and allied infidel Muslim nations.

According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report, as many as 36 former detainees have taken part in terrorist acts against Western targets.

In the wake of the suicide bombing involving Al Ajmi, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that five to 10 percent of former detainees have returned to terrorism.

In December 2007, John Bellinger III, legal adviser to the State Department, said "ten percent of the people we have released have gone right back to fighting generally in Afghanistan. It's hard to tell exactly how many people would go back to actual acts of terrorism, or whether they would just go back to fighting in Afghanistan."

At least seven former prisoners of GITMO are known to have returned to terrorism despite having gained their freedom by signing pledges to renounce violence. Sharia Islam practicing Muslims believe it’s okay to lie and deceive if it advances their anti-infidel jihad. Two of them are believed to have died in fighting in Afghanistan, and a third was recaptured during a raid on a terrorist training camp there, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico.

Meanwhile, those who advocate the immediate closing Guantanamo claim it houses mostly innocent people captured on the battlefields of the War on Terror.

But reports of former detainees who’ve returned to fight jihad show they are dedicated to their cause and have been trained to be deceptive, Pentagon officials said. Yet, despite this tenant of Sharia jihad law, this ideologically inspired deception will not prevent the release of other detainees from GITMO.



.In Al Ajmi’s case,while there is no suggestion in documents made public by the Pentagon that he was involved with Al Qaeda at the time of his captured, it nevertheless was clear that he was driven by religious conviction and hoped other Muslims would see his death as a righteous act.

By late 2004, Pentagon officials said at that time at least ten GITMO prisoners who’d been released after US officials concluded they posed little threat had been recaptured or killed fighting US or coalition forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the repatriated prisoners, Abdullah Mehsud, assumed leadership of a terrorist cell as a militant leader in the Mahsud trib in Pakistan’s lawless South Waziristan region.

"We have since discovered that he had been associated with the Taliban since his teen years and has been described as an Al Qaeda-linked facilitator, said DoD spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Gordon.

"In mid-October 2004, Mehsud directed the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in Pakistan. During rescue operations by Pakistani forces, a kidnapper shot one of the hostages. Five of the kidnappers were killed. Mehsud was not among them," Pentagon documents disclosed.

Mehsud reportedly bragged about how he’d tricked his American interrogators into believing he was someone else.

Mehsud’s brother, Baitullah, commands 30,000 fighters supporting Al Qaeda in Pakistan and is accused of masterminded the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

"Reports that former detainees have rejoined Al Qaeda and the Taliban are evidence that these individuals are fanatical and particularly deceptive," Plexico told the Washington Post in October, 2004.

In April 2007, Saudi officials said they were alarmed to find Saudi detainees released back to the dessert kingdom were more devoted than ever to radical Islam.

“The military has reviewed the situation of every detainee at Guantanamo, and determined that, if released, they would continue to pose a threat of rejoining Al Qaeda or the Taliban,” House Armed Services Committee Ranking Republican Duncan Hunter said in a June 22 2007 letter to President Bush urging him to continue detaining dangerous terrorists at GITMO.

Hunter stated “the danger that these detainees pose is indisputable. The intelligence community has confirmed that a sizeable number of detainees released from Guantanamo rejoined hostilities in Afghanistan and were either killed or captured on the battlefield.”

Five days later, on June 27, Ruslan Odizhev, a former detainee at GITMO, was killed by Russian security service agents as they tried to arrest him and another man in Kabardino-Balkariya, a region near Chechnya.

According to Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, Odizhev – whose whereabouts reputedly were unknown by the US following his release – was a Taliban-linked suspect in the 1999 bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, and had participated in a 2005 attack on police and government facilities in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya.

That attack reputedly was led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who was killed in the battle. Basayev had ties to Usama bin Laden and Iranian-supported Hizbollah, and is the Islamist terrorist who first threatened the use of a “dirty bomb.” Basayev is known to have possessed radioactive materials.

According to Russian authorities, three homemade explosive devices were found on Odizhev’s body. Odizhev and six other Russians were captured in Afghanistan and released from Guantanamo in 2004 after investigators said they found no evidence of their involvement with the Taliban. It’s unclear whether the FSB had shared with US authorities what it knew about Odizhev’s ties to the Taliban.

Critics, however, assert the majority of “terrorists” detained behind GITMO’s walls probably aren’t all that dangerous.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once described the Guantanamo prisoners as the "worst of the worst," but a National Journal report stated that its “detailed review of government files on 132 prisoners who have asked the courts for help, and a thorough reading of heavily censored transcripts from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted in Guantanamo for 314 prisoners, didn't turn up very many of them. Most of the ‘enemy combatants’ held at Guantanamo - for four years now - are simply not the worst of the worst of the terrorist world.”

The National Journal reported “many of them are not accused of hostilities against the United States or its allies. Most, when captured, were innocent of any terrorist activity, were Taliban foot soldiers at worst, and were often far less than that. And some, perhaps many, are guilty only of being foreigners in Afghanistan or Pakistan at the wrong time. And much of the evidence - even the classified evidence - gathered by the Defense Department against these men is flimsy, second-, third-, fourth- or 12th-hand. It's based largely on admissions by the detainees themselves or on coerced, or worse, interrogations of their fellow inmates, some of whom have been proved to be liars.”

By fall of 2002, fewer than ten percent GITMO’s detainees were considered high-value terrorist operatives, according to former CIA counterterrorist Michael Scheuer, who headed the agency's bin Laden unit.

Military and intelligence officials though say GITMO’s prisoners have in fact provided valuable intelligence to interrogators.

But whether the prisoners are high-value terrorists or are merely “foot soldiers” isn’t the point, officials and authorities stress. They are still combatants in a war who must be dealt with accordingly.

In the case of Al Ajmi, counterterrorism analysts had argued in a review of his terrorism-related activities that he should not be released or returned to Kuwait. And they had many reasons for this conclusion:

•    Al Ajmi deserted from the Kuwaiti army to join in the jihad against infidels in Afghanistan;

•    The Taliban supplied him with arms, including grenades;

•    He admitted fighting with the Taliban;

•    He was captured by coalition forces in the Tora Bora region, an area once thought to be a hideout of bin Laden;

•    Upon arrival at GITMO he demonstrated "aggressive" behavior; and,

•    A review of classified and unclassified documents shows Al Ajmi was declared a threat to the United States and its allies.

Not surprisingly, Al Ajmi denied he was an enemy combatant and jihadist. Nevertheless, he was repatriated to Kuwaiti authorities.

"Once again a detainee may have been given the benefit of the doubt, released, and returned to the battlefield and attacked innocent people and our troops. These are dangerous people," said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Pentagon officials say there are more than ten suspected jihadists once held at Guantanamo who have been killed or captured in fighting since being released.

"Our reports indicate that a number of former detainees have taken part in anti-coalition militant activities after leaving US detention,” said DoD’s Gordon, adding, “some have subsequently been killed in combat.”

Documents provided by the Pentagon show former detainees have returning to the frontlines of the War on Terror.

"As these facts illustrate, there is an implied future risk to US and allied interests with every detainee who is released or transferred from Guantanamo," Gordon said.

At present, of the more than 500 detainees who have been released from GITMO, 38 have had their "enemy combatant" status removed and determined to pose no future threat to the US. The remaining 462 were repatriated to or resettled to third-party countries and are still considered a threat, according to the Pentagon.

Some countries have since released the former detainees.

“The Al Ajmi news shows mass emancipation is hardly the answer,” recently wrote Jeffrey Breinholt, former Deputy Chief of the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section.