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Read the Gitmo Files

CNN fails to challenge Gitmo detainees' false stories.

8:30 PM, Jun 15, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The ETIM (otherwise known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, "TIP"), is a known jihadist organization dedicated to building a radical Islamist state in Central and South Asia.

The organization openly proclaims its allegiance to al Qaeda in its propaganda videos, which can be found on You Tube. (See here and here.)

There is at least some evidence that the organization has already plotted against American interests as well. The State Department has reported that "two ETIM members were deported to China from Kyrgyzstan for plotting to attack the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan as well as other US interests abroad" in May of 2002. The State Department also noted that ETIM members "fought alongside" the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But if you only listen to the Uighurs' attorney and the Uighurs' denials, as CNN did, you would not know that the ETIM, its Tora Bora camp, and its trainees, including Nasser, are connected to al Qaeda and the international jihad.

In fact, Sabin Willett's claim that the U.S. government never alleged the Uighur detainees had "any Al Qaeda link or were in an Al Qaeda camp" is flatly wrong. The government's descriptions of the camp vary in the case files prepared for the Uighurs. And the files don't always relay that the government believes the camp was funded by al Qaeda and the Taliban. But, contrary to Willett, the government has pointed to the ties between the ETIM, the Tora Bora camp, and al Qaeda.

For example, in the CSRT summary of evidence memo prepared for Hozaifa Parhat, who was also transferred to Bermuda, the U.S. government alleged:

The training camp was provided to the Uighurs by the Taliban.

East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) operated facilities in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in which Uighur expatriates underwent small-arms training. These camps were funded by Bin Laden and the Taliban.

The memo prepared for Parhat's tribunal can also be found on the New York Times's web site. (See here.) So, it should have been easy for CNN to fact check Willett's claim and provide a counterpoint.

The Uighurs' proponents have tried to deny that the camp was funded by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. They claim that the allegations of ties between the ETIM's camp and al Qaeda are based solely on reporting provided by the Chinese government, which is hardly the most reliable source. But this denial is not credible for a number of reasons.

First, Tora Bora was a key stronghold for the Taliban and al Qaeda, so much so that they retreated there after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. It is implausible that Nasser and the ETIM could train there without their tacit endorsement, at the very least. The ETIM also operated a safehouse in Taliban-controlled Jalalabad that was used to transit Uighurs to the Tora Bora camp. Nasser, according to the U.S. government, stayed at this guesthouse before arriving in Tora Bora in June 2001.

Second, as mentioned above, the ETIM has openly declared its allegiance to al Qaeda in its propaganda videos. Is it really hard to believe that al Qaeda sponsored their Tora Bora camp when the ETIM's members stand in front of al Qaeda's black flag proclaiming their dedication to jihad? Some ETIM videos have shown its members training in the new al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds of Northern Pakistan as well.

Third, and most importantly, at least eight of the seventeen Uighurs who were detained at Gitmo at the start of the Obama administration have admitted that the Tora Bora camp was run by a terrorist named Abdul Haq. The Obama administration's Treasury Department has designated Haq an al Qaeda terrorist, citing his role in al Qaeda's Shura (consultation) council since 2005.

Nasser did not say who ran the Tora Bora training camp during his CSRT session. But it is clear, based on the testimony of at least eight other Uighurs, including Hozaifa Parhat, that Abdul Haq ran the camp.

There is no real material dispute, then, that the camp was run by an al Qaeda terrorist. And Nasser lived and was trained at this camp.

A statement by the Uighur detainees' attorney and Nasser's newfound denial do not change these simple facts.