Americas

Guantanamo's Manipulators Leading the New Jihad

In this photo reviewed by the US Military, a journalist enters the shower tent at Camp Justice, location of the US Military Commissions at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 21, 2009. (Photo: Brennan Linsley/AFP/Getty Images)

"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for."

These are the words loudly uttered by an al-Qaeda cadre who was detained in GITMO for a number of years and released in 2007 back to the region. This statement comes at a time the detention center has been ordered to be shut down within a year. This episode provides evidence that Jihadism as an ideology does not respond to the political culture of democracy nor are the indoctrinated Jihadists impacted by the moral and legal debate within what they see as the sphere of the infidels. The Guantanamo legal and ethical drama will continue to be discussed in the United Sates and the West, but for now let's look at the outpouring harsh facts.

As reported by the SITE web site, two men released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a Jihadi site. The most notorious of the two, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or prisoner number 372, has been "elevated to the senior ranks of al-Qaeda in Yemen," a US counter-terrorism official told AFP. The other man on the video is Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an al-Qaeda commander. SITE stated he was prisoner Number 333. Reviewing the video provided by the Laura Mansfield monitoring group. I analyzed the statements made by al-Shahri and al-Oufi in original Arabic.

On the video, as reported accurately by all sites and news agencies, al-Shihri is seen sitting with three other men under a flag of the "Islamic State of Iraq," Al-Qaeda's regional command in Mesopotamia. The other two Jihadists in the video were identified as Abu Baseer al-Wahayshi and Abu Hureira Qasm al-Rimi (aka Abu Hureira al-Sana'ani). Al-Shiri was transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia in 2007, a US counter-terrorism official told AFP. A US source confirmed to AP that Said Ali al-Shihri, "who was jailed at Guantanamo for six years after his capture in Pakistan, has resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch of al-Qaida." Al-Shihri was released by the US in 2007 to the Saudi government for "rehabilitation." But this week a statement posted on the site declared he is now the top deputy in "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula," the regional command for Bin Laden's organization operating from Yemen with cells across the peninsula. The terror group has been responsible for attacks on the US Embassy in Yemen's capital Sana.

Article Continues

Per US documents obtained by AP, "al-Shihri was stopped at a Pakistani border crossing in December 2001 with injuries from an airstrike and recuperated at a hospital in Quetta for a month and a half. Within days of leaving the hospital, he became one of the first detainees sent to Guantanamo." According to the same sources, "Al-Shihri allegedly traveled to Afghanistan two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, provided money to other fighters and trained in urban warfare at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan." But more troubling is the fact that al-Shihri was a contact person between al-Qaeda and Iran. As reported by AP, he was "an alleged travel coordinator for al-Qaida who was accused of meeting extremists in Mashad, Iran, and briefing them on how to enter Afghanistan." Such a person operating in the most strategic area of Jihadism, the most dangerous bridge of (potential) cooperation between al-Qaeda and the Khomeinist regime, was released from Guantanamo on the basis that he said "bin Laden had no business representing Islam, denied any links to terrorism and expressed interest in rejoining his family in Saudi Arabia." When asked about his Iranian trips, he allegedly answered that he was "buying carpets for his store in Riyadh."

Is this for real? Had these facts not been cited from official US documents and had I and many colleagues not viewed the video personally, it would have been hard to believe that the Guantanamo release of Jihadists was that tragic for national security and for the future of US and allied efforts in the confrontation with Terror forces. Unfortunately, the reality of al-Qaeda's tactics regarding Guantanamo or any other detention center, judicial, administrative or military, raises unavoidable questions and brings about sobering conclusions:

1) Former inmates, in this case Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri (Prisoner No 372) and Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi (Prisoner No 333), are being elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda. The release of Jihadi Terrorists to their countries or other countries in the region didn't transform them into ordinary citizens but reinserted them in al-Qaeda's network. Furthermore, Salafi Jihadi chat rooms are mentioning the video and propagating the argument that those released from Guantanamo are going to be not only well received and made into heroes but will become the leaders of the Jihad (al-Qaeda and others) against the United States, the West and moderates in the region.

2) On what ground were they released? This is an important question to be raised because it would help project what will happen when the other GITMO detainees will be released. What is the measurement that US authorities have adopted to release al-Qaeda members from Guantanamo? Was it statements the Jihadists made about their forthcoming life? All al-Shahri had to do was criticize Bin Laden and pledge to return to a normal life? How did experts and psychologists guide the government in terms of concluding that indeed the Terrorists have reformed?

3) How come these released detainees to Yemen (or other countries) were able to reemerge as al-Qaeda leaders there? How come they were able to travel across the region and reorganize? What would this tell us about our "partners" in the so-called War against Terror?

4) How come US intelligence wasn't able to predict that these detainees would reinsert in al-Qaeda after being released? Or did US intelligence predict the outcome but policy makers still decided to release them?

5) Shutting down Guantanamo may be a decision based on "political, moral and strategic communications" considerations. This debate is not over apparently. But this latest video brings hard evidence that the issue isn't about a camp to be shut down but about an ideology to be countered. For according to al-Qaeda's manuals, the Jihadists are trained for when they are in detention and are prepared for all other scenarios: facing all sorts of courts, becoming martyrs or being released to perform Jihad again.

In previous articles, I underlined that al Qaeda has detention tactics and a post detention strategy. The United States must catch up with the Terror forces. It should have developed counter strategies for both stages, with or without Guantanamo. Unless proven wrong, facts show a failure in both stages. This Jihadi manipulation is a chilling reminder of the “silence of the lambs.” It is time to bridge the gap.

**************

Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.

Advertise with Worldpress.org