US concerned about former Gitmo prisoners in Yemen: Report

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.

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

"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.