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A Few Bad Men

The Obama administration’s ­astonishing decision to send six Gitmo terrorists to Yemen.

Jan 18, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 17 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Prior to al Wafa, Mari worked for another known al Qaeda front—a charity called al Haramayn. While al Haramayn claims it is only interested in charitable endeavors, its real mission is to inculcate radical Islam in war-torn countries. Al Haramayn has repeatedly supported extremists and terrorists, including al Qaeda members. U.S. government files allege that Mari was once a top official in the Baku, Azerbaijan, branch of al Haramayn. That branch is known to have played a leading role in funneling supplies and recruits to the jihadists fighting in Chechnya. 

A ‘Captured Mujahedin.’ When U.S. and Pakistani officials raid al Qaeda safe houses, they capture not only terrorists, but also valuable bits of hard intelligence—computers, documents, fraudulent passports, memory sticks—that help illuminate the underworld of terrorism. Al Qaeda maintains a fairly robust bureaucracy and with every bureaucracy, there is paperwork. Lists of al Qaeda members maintained by their fellow terrorists are a particularly important find.

Riyad Atiq Ali Abdu al Haf’s name, alias, and personal information appeared on three such lists. One was “found on a computer harddrive associated with a known al Qaeda operative” and includes al Haf among the ranks of “captured mujahedin.” Another list recovered during a raid on suspected al Qaeda safe houses in Pakistan lists al Haf’s “name, aliases and nationality” among more than 320 other Arabic names. Still another document, a “list of al Qaeda mujahedin,” contains al Haf’s name, alias, and the “contents of his trust account.”

After serving in the Yemeni -military for one year, al Haf was recruited to wage jihad in South Asia. He stayed in various Taliban safe houses during his travels. Once in Afghanistan, he was allegedly trained at the al Farouq camp—the crown jewel of al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 training infrastructure. A fellow al Qaeda operative even identified al Haf as the man who trained him on combat weapons. 

Other evidence in U.S. government files indicates that al Haf served on the front lines in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance and at Tora Bora, where he allegedly delivered food supplies to his fellow fighters. Al Haf was captured near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

The Bodyguard. Faruq Ali Ahmed, who memorized the Koran before the age of 17, claims he traveled to Afghanistan simply to teach children how to do the same. Military and intelligence officials at Guantánamo, however, did not believe his story. In a series of memos written between September 8, 2004, and October 10, 2007, U.S. officials alleged that Ahmed was recruited in a known jihadist center in Yemen (where some of the USS Cole bombers had been recruited), trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan (including al Farouq), and went on to become a bodyguard at Osama bin Laden’s private airport in Kandahar. This airport was one of the most secure al Qaeda facilities in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Only the most trustworthy members of the group ever served there. 

The Students. Fayad Yahya Ahmed al Rami and Muhammad Yasir Ahmed Taher were both allegedly recruited by the Jamaat Tablighi, an Islamic missionary organization that, according to the declassified Guantánamo files, is regularly used by al Qaeda to shuttle terrorists around the globe. The Jamaat Tablighi, which claims to be solely devoted to proselytizing, has a long history of sponsoring jihadists inside Pakistan. Al Rami and Taher were both captured during raids of al Qaeda safe houses operated by Abu Zubaydah—a top al Qaeda lieutenant—on March 28, 2002. 

Al Rami and Taher claimed they were students at Salafia University living in a residence for foreigners—the Issa House—run by the Jamaat Tablighi. According to court filings, there was “a close relationship” between Zubaydah’s safe house and the Issa House, and residents of both were “making preparations to continue to fight” after September 11. 

Of the six Yemeni detainees transferred in December, al Rami and Taher are the least worrisome. There is no indication, for example, that they received any terrorist training or actually participated in hostilities. Or it may simply be the case that they had not had the opportunity to fight. 

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