US concerned about former Gitmo prisoners in Yemen: Report
  • This Section
  • Latest
  • Web Wrap
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 03, 2010, 13:13
Boston: As the US prepares a crackdown on the recent Yemen bomb plots, officials fear that some "high- ranking" al Qaeda men released from the Guantanamo Bay to a Saudi rehabilitation programme may be "slipping over" to Yemen as key figures of the terror group in Arabian Peninsula.

The Saudis have told US officials that the four-step rehabilitation programme has an 80 per cent success rate at reforming militants once held by the US.

"As the US ratchets up security on cargo packages and digs deeper into the plot to send bombs from Yemen, officials are concerned that a number of high-ranking members of al Qaeda in Yemen were released from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a Saudi rehabilitation programme for militants," a report in the Los Angeles Times said.

"But US intelligence officials note that a crucial cadre of those who were released have slipped over the border into Yemen and become key figures in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," it said.

The No. 2 leader for the group in Yemen is Saudi national Said Shihri, who was captured by the US in Afghanistan in 2001 and released from Guantanamo in 2007 to the Saudi programme.

He was later featured in a 2009 video announcing the merger of the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda. "A hard-core group of terrorists have either fooled the system or beat the system, and that is a concern," the report quoted Representative Jane Harman as saying.

Representative Edward Markey from Massachusetts said he plans to introduce a new cargo-screening law when Congress reconvenes on November 15.

"America's aviation system remains at the top of Al Qaeda's terrorist target list...The cargo industry and business community must recognise more needs to be done to secure cargo planes."

Another "figure of concern" is Uthman Ghamdi, who was released from Guantanamo into the Saudi programme in 2006. Ghamdi is considered a close aide to the American-born cleric Anwar Awlaki, who has become a master strategist and propagandist for al Qaeda in Yemen, the LA Times report said.

Ghamdi had written a passage in the jihadi online magazine Inspire, released in October, describing his flight to Guantanamo on a cargo plane. Last January, the Obama administration had suspended transfers of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen after it learnt that the Christmas day bomber had received training from al Qaeda there.

The Pentagon had also announced that it would not repatriate any more Saudi detainees from Guantanamo.

The changes came after a Pentagon report disclosed that an estimated one-fifth of the detainees released from the US military prison at Guantanamo have taken up extremist activity.

"Saudi Arabia had released a list in 2009 of its 85 most wanted terrorists. Of those, seven who were held in Guantanamo and released from the Saudi programme are believed to be at large in Yemen," the report quoted Christopher Boucek, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as saying.

"There are people who cannot be rehabilitated," Boucek said. The programme "is not a silver bullet. It is part of a bigger effort."

After the package bomb threat came to light, air passenger screenings across US airports have increased.

However, according to UCLA Professor emeritus Michael Intriligator, inspections alone would not solve the problem.

"They still have the goal of killing 3 million Americans. There is no way to ensure our protection. It's physically impossible. We are a porous country with a lot of openings. We are not prepared for it," the LA Times report quoted him.


First Published: Wednesday, November 03, 2010, 13:13

comments powered by Disqus