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1 in 7 Guantanamo inmates returns to fight: Pentagon

File image courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 26, 2009
Five percent of former Guantanamo detainees are "confirmed" and another nine percent are "suspected" of having rejoined the fight against the United States and its allies, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Of the more than 530 detainees transferred from the US naval base in southern Cuba, 27 were confirmed and 47 were suspected "of reengaging in terrorist activity," the US Defense Department said in a summary.

The Pentagon, citing assessments and analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said it had obtained a "preponderance of evidence," such as fingerprints, DNA, photographs and intelligence reporting, that linked 27 detainees to the war following their release.

But it noted that "engagement in anti-US propaganda alone does not qualify as terrorist activity."

The data was released amid an intense debate in Washington over President Barack Obama's detainee policy and his plans to shutter the controversial prison camp by January 22, 2010, which have already faced criticism from both Republicans and his Democratic allies.

Previous Pentagon reports on recidivism by detainees at Guantanamo Bay, which currently houses 240 terror suspects, have been criticized for their lack of detail and portrayed as efforts to justify keeping the prison open.

Of the 74 men cited in the latest report, 29 were identified by name, including 16 for the first time. The list contained former detainees from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon report confirmed that former inmates who returned to the fight included Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shihri -- also known as Said Ali al-Shihri -- suspected in a 2008 deadly bombing of the US embassy in Sanaa, and Mazin Salih Musaid al-Alawi al-Awfi.

The two men, both repatriated to Saudi Arabia in July 2007, reportedly announced in a January video message that they were leaders in the newly established Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen.

Among the most severe cases of recidivism was Said Mohammed Alim Shah, also known as Abdullah Mahsud, who was repatriated to Afghanistan in March 2004. Mahsud led an April 2007 attack that killed 31 people, the report said, citing a Pakistani official.

As early as October 2004, months after his release, he is said to have kidnapped two Chinese engineers and claimed responsibility for a hotel bombing in Islamabad.

The Pentagon report said a former detainee was "suspected" of returning to the fight based on "unverified or single-source, but plausible reporting."

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