This is the fifth part of a nine-part series telling the stories of all the prisoners currently held in Guantánamo (174 at the time of writing). See the introduction here, and Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Six and Part Seven.
This fifth article tells the stories of 13 prisoners seized in Pakistan between November 2001 and February 2002, as part of a process of capturing prisoners that was, if anything, even more alarmingly random, opportunistic, or reliant on dubious intelligence than the well-chronicled seizure, in Afghanistan or crossing the border into Pakistan, of Arabs — whether soldiers or civilians — that I chronicled in Parts One to Four of this series.
In addition to the “high-value detainees” seized in Pakistan (to be discussed in Part Nine), at least a hundred other prisoners were seized in Pakistan, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, mostly in house raids between November 2001 and July 2002, but also in random raids on mosques, on buses and in the street. Around 60 of these men have already been released, and their cases, in general, reveal how US intelligence was often horrendously inaccurate, and how opportunism often played a part in the actions of the Pakistani authorities, who were being rewarded financially. As President Musharraf admitted in his 2006 autobiography, In the Line of Fire, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, “We have earned bounty payments totaling millions of dollars.” With so much money swilling around, it was unsurprising that those “terror suspects” often turned out to be nothing more than Arabs who had been living and working in Pakistan for many years — or students seized by mistake.
Of the 13 men whose stories are described in this chapter, only one has had a ruling on his habeas corpus petition, and, although successful, that ruling was overturned on appeal in July this year. One other man, the last Tajik in Guantánamo, was cleared for release before a judge could rule on his petition, and, of the rest, two are Afghans, two are Saudis (who were cleared for release under the Bush administration), and the rest are Yemenis. As with the Yemenis discussed in other articles, it is certain that some are amongst the 58 Yemenis cleared for release by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, who are only held because of the President’s unprincipled moratorium on releasing any Yemenis, which he announced in January, although others may be amongst the 26 Yemenis that the Task Force recommended should continue to be held indefinitely without charge or trial. Please also note that 27 more stories of men seized in Pakistan feature in Parts Six and Seven.
ISN 033 Al Adahi, Mohammed (Yemen)
Married with two children, al-Adahi had never left the Yemen until August 2001, when he took a vacation from the oil company where he had worked for 21 years to accompany his sister to meet her husband in Afghanistan. He was later seized on a bus in Pakistan, and transferred to Guantánamo. Although his sister’s husband was undoubtedly connected to al-Qaeda, Judge Gladys Kessler granted his habeas corpus petition in August 2009, because she concluded that, despite his sister’s marriage, al-Adahi himself had no connection to al-Qaeda. Although there was abundant evidence that she was correct, the government appealed the ruling, and in July 2010 the D.C. Circuit Court overturned Judge Kessler’s ruling, when Judge A. Raymond Randolph (notorious for endorsing every piece of Guantánamo-related legislation that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court) launched an unprincipled personal attack on Judge Kessler, essentially ignoring the merits of the case, and describing her ruling as “manifestly incorrect — indeed startling,” in an opinion in which he also attempted to claim that the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in the District Courts, which is already a much lower threshold than in federal court trials, was too high.
ISN 257 Abdulayev, Umar (Tajikistan)
A refugee from Tajikistan, who had arrived in Afghanistan with his family in 1992 (when he was around 13 years old), Abdulayev was living in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, in November 2001, when he was seized in a bazaar by operatives of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), who asked him for a bribe which he couldn’t pay, and then imprisoned him, and, it seems, made him copy information relating to insurgency and military activity into a series of notebooks that were then used to justify his detention as a terrorist. In June 2009, as Abdulayev’s habeas case neared the District Court, the Justice Department abruptly announced that they would “no longer defend his detention,” and that they “want[ed] US diplomats to arrange to repatriate him” This decision was distressing to Abdulayev and his lawyers for two reasons: firstly, because Abdulayev is terrified of returning to Tajikistan, as he was threatened by Tajik agents who visited him in Guantánamo; and secondly, because the Task Force’s decision also led the Justice Department to ask a judge to drop Abdulayev’s habeas petition, prompting his lawyers to point out that the Task Force’s decision was “not a determination that [Abdulayev’s] detention was or was not lawful,” and that it therefore “does nothing towards removing the stigma of being held in Guantánamo or being accused of being a terrorist by the United States.” As one of his lawyers, Andrew Moss, explained to me, the Justice Department’s maneuverings meant that the writ of habeas corpus was “effectively suspended.”
ISN 560 Mohammed, Haji Wali (Afghanistan)
In The Guantánamo Files, I described the bizarre story of Haji Wali Mohammed as follows: “Mohammed, a 35-year old money exchanger, was captured at his home in Peshawar, on 24 January 2002. Married with two wives and ten children, he was born in Afghanistan, but his family fled to Pakistan in 1978 and lived in refugee camps for the next ten years until he established himself as a successful moneychanger and moved to Peshawar in 1988. All was well until 1995, when he first lost a significant amount of money, and in 1998, after entering into a business deal with the Bank of Afghanistan that also failed, he ended up being blamed by the Taliban, who made him responsible for the whole debt — around one million dollars — even though he only had a 25 percent stake in the deal. He explained to his tribunal that the ISI took his car in November 2001 and then returned in January, because they knew he was ‘a very famous money exchanger’ and assumed that he would pay them a bribe of at least $100,000. When he said that he actually owed a lot of money to other people and was unable to pay, he was told, ‘If you don’t have a car and you don’t have the cash, sell your house and give us half of it to save you from the bad ending.’ Three days later, he was handed over to the Americans, purportedly as a drug smuggler, although his new captors soon decided that he bought surface-to-air missiles for Osama bin Laden and — despite his abysmal financial record since 1995 — was entrusted with a million dollars by Mullah Omar. Explaining that he did not know bin Laden and had no time for the Taliban, who had ruined his life, he said, ‘We were businessmen, their ways and our ways were different. That’s why they didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. Because a businessman does not have a beard and listens to music in his car, and he watches television and they didn’t like that.’”
The following nine men were seized in a series of house raids in Karachi on or around February 7, 2002, which led to the capture of Sharqwi Abdu Ali al-Hajj (ISN 1457, see Part Eight), also known as Riyadh the Facilitator, who was then rendered to a secret torture prison in Jordan that was run on behalf of the CIA. 14 other prisoners were seized in these raids, although five of these men were released between 2005 and 2007, and, although the US authorities have attempted to portray all of the men as having been captured with al-Hajj, Chris Mackey, a former interrogator in Afghanistan, explained in his book The Interrogators that they were “found in a couple of safe houses in an ethnically Arab district.” As I explained in The Guantánamo Files, “Unlike Sharqawi [al-Hajj], they were all transferred to Guantánamo after processing and interrogation in Afghanistan, but it was far from clear that any of them had any involvement with terrorism. Most seem to have ended up at the safe house because it was one of many used as part of an impromptu system developed after the fall of the Taliban to help hundreds of Arabs — including trained fighters, recent recruits and civilians — to evade capture by Afghan or Pakistani forces.”
ISN 564 Bin Amer, Jalal (Yemen)
In The Guantánamo Files, I explained how bin Amer (also identified as Jalal Salam Awad Awad) “was accused of training at [a] Libyan camp near Kabul,” but denied that he had ever been in Afghanistan at all, and said that he went to Pakistan “with some other people who were acting as missionaries to talk about religion in the villages.” Married with a five-year old daughter, he worked for a government ministry, and, in a written submission to his tribunal at Guantánamo, his brother, who noted that he had called home regularly from Pakistan, described him as being “far from a religious fanatic.” In contrast, the US authorities allege that he has admitted that he “traveled to Afghanistan, ostensibly for the purpose of getting married, finding work and settling down,” and that he “maintains that he originally went to Afghanistan to immigrate and not for training.” Apart from the allegation about training at the Libyan camp, and two other distinctly dubious allegations — that he had traveled to a guest house from al-Farouq, and that he “was identified by a senior al-Qaeda operative as being a Yemeni bodyguard for Osama bin Laden who he saw in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2000” — there is no indication that he ever took up arms against anybody, and it is stated explicitly in the government’s evidence that he “fled Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.”
ISN 566 Qattaa, Mansoor (Saudi Arabia)
Qattaa, who was cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration in 2005 (although the Bush administration claimed not to know this in his habeas litigation in November 2008), is accused of spending approximately nine weeks in Afghanistan — a month in Logar province “waiting for training,” after which he allegedly “walked to a fighting position and stayed for approximately five weeks” — before he made his way to Karachi via various safe houses. He reportedly spent three weeks in Karachi before his capture, in a house where, according to the government, “[t]here were approximately 15-16 people,” but no mention was made of any terrorist connections in the government’s allegations against him. Instead, “The home’s owner was reported to have been helping the detainee obtain a new passport so he could return home.”
ISN 569 Al Shorabi, Zohair (Yemen)
Al-Shorabi (also identified as Zuhail al-Sharabi) stated in Guantánamo that he went to Pakistan in 1999 to find work, and that he subsequently established a trading business. However, the US authorities allege that he attended a Libyan training camp near Kabul, and fought on the Taliban front lines. At one point, he was also accused of working as a guard at Kandahar airport before the 9/11 attacks, where he was “seen in the company of Osama bin Laden and another senior al-Qaeda operative,” and is “believed to be al-Qaeda because of his access to Osama bin Laden.” However, while this allegation matched a pattern of false statements made by one of al-Shorabi’s fellow prisoners, identified by the FBI as a notorious liar who had falsely accused 60 prisoners in Guantánamo, he was also picked out for two even more worrying allegations: that, on an unspecified date, he traveled to Malaysia, where he allegedly stayed with Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, two of the 9/11 hijackers, and that he was “one of seven individuals selected as martyrs” for a future terrorist operation.
ISN 570 Al Qurashi, Sabri (Yemen)
In Guantánamo, al-Qurashi said that he went to Pakistan on a trip that combined business and religion: to start a perfume business, importing Pakistani perfume, which is “very famous in our country,” and to study religion, because “in Pakistan there is the biggest center for Dawa and [Jamaat-al-]Tablighi.” Having become separated from his traveling companions, he said that he met an Arab who told him that he had the addresses for various perfume companies, but suggested that he should go to Afghanistan as a missionary first “because the people need you there.” He said that this man told him that he would bring him back to Pakistan after a month, but that when he agreed and went to Afghanistan he “couldn’t get out because the guy who took me to Afghanistan left and I never saw him again.” Despite this, however, he said that he ended up renovating and reopening an old mosque in Logar province. Responding to an allegation that, after Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance, he “joined a group of about 100 Arabs in the mountain regions,” led by Abu Mohammad al-Masri (aka Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah), regarded as one of the organizers of the 1998 African embassy bombings, and a senior al-Qaeda figure who escaped from Tora Bora, he said that he was not part of a group, that he did not know of al-Masri’s role, and that there were far more than 100 people — “hundreds including Arabs, Afghanis, Pakistanis, from other nationalities, kids, women, old people, animals, and cows that belonged to the people going toward Khost.” He also refuted an allegation that he had trained at al-Farouq (the main training camp for Arabs in Afghanistan, associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before the 9/11 attacks) and had identified al-Masri as the leader of the camp, saying that he had only told this story because, after his arrest, the Pakistani interrogators had told him that the Americans wouldn’t believe his story about “coming to Afghanistan to teach Islamic rule,” and would say that he went for jihad and to fight for the Taliban. He added that they said, “if you don’t say what we are saying to you … you know there are no rules or system to defend you. We will start torturing you until you say what we are telling you to say to the Americans.”
ISN 572 Al Zabe, Salah (Saudi Arabia)
Al-Zabe, who was cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration, has stated that he moved to Afghanistan with his family in 1999, and has explained that, when the Taliban regime fell and Arabs were subject to reprisals, he had been smuggled out of the country — by people he didn’t know but who he considered were helping him out of kindness — and had been moved from place to place, ending up with other civilians in the house where he was arrested. In contrast, the US authorities allege that he undertook military training in Afghanistan, and was “smuggled out of Afghanistan to Pakistan.”
ISN 574 Al Wady, Hamoud (Yemen)
As I explained in The Guantánamo Files, al-Wady stated in Guantánamo that he went to Afghanistan for jihad because he swore that he would do so if his wife bore him a child. In Afghanistan, however, he said that the “picture about the fight in my head” — which he conceived as a fight between Muslims and Communists, as it had been in the conflict between North and South Yemen — was incorrect, and his supposed enemies were all Muslims. After undertaking humanitarian work with an Arab who explained that “not everybody comes to Afghanistan for fighting,” he said that he fled to Pakistan after the US-led invasion began and stayed at the house of a Pakistani, whose phone number he had been given in Afghanistan, which was where he was arrested. “I did not plan to go to that particular house,” he explained. “I had only the telephone number and I did not know if it belonged to a house or something else, a shop, for example.” In contrast, the US authorities allege that he made three trips to Herat as a money courier, and was “an assistant officer on the northern Afghanistan front.”
ISN 575 Al Azani, Saad (Yemen)
In The Guantánamo Files, I explained that, in Guantánamo, al-Azani stated that he went to Pakistan to train as an imam, after attending a school run by Jamaat-al-Tablighi in Yemen, and ended up undertaking religious training in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Unable to come up with any evidence against him, the US authorities resorted to declaring that a request for permission for him to preach Islam in Pakistan “was found in a collection of materials related to al-Qaeda,” that the man who ran the Institute of Islamic Studies, where he studied, was “an al-Qaeda operational planner,” and that the student population “consisted primarily of Afghani and Philippine Taliban members.”
ISN 576 Bin Hamdoun, Zahir (Yemen)
Bin Hamdoun was accused of training at al-Farouq, and of staying at multiple safe houses, but the only serious allegation against him — that “an individual” identified him as “the primary weapons instructor” at the camp, and that he “reportedly” also taught explosives — has all the hallmarks of a worthless claim made under unknown circumstances by one of his fellow prisoners. In his defense, he claimed that he spent two years as a missionary in Afghanistan, and that he made false confessions about training and attending al-Farouq because he had been told, in detention in Pakistan, that he would otherwise be sent to an Arab prison where he would be tortured. In November 2009, bin Hamdoun was on a hunger strike in Guantánamo. With Mohammed Bawazir (ISN 440, see Part Two), he petitioned the D.C. District Court to declare that force-feeding was “tantamount to torture,” but Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that she did not have the “appropriate expertise” to decide whether that was true.
ISN 578 Al Suadi, Abdul Aziz (Yemen)
Abdul Aziz al-Suadi, an electrician in Yemen, stated in Guantánamo that he was recruited for jihad by a sheikh, and was also encouraged by another man “to go to Afghanistan to participate in jihad against the Russians.” The US authorities allege that he arrived in Afghanistan towards the end of 2000, attended al-Farouq and another camp, Tarnak Farms, where, according to an unidentified and possibly unreliable source, he “was identified as having received exclusive instruction on chemical explosives,” and was apparently in the Karachi house for a month before his capture, along with other Yemenis waiting to travel home to Yemen.
ISN 579 Khairkhwa, Khairullah (Afghanistan)
On February 7, 2002, at the same time as the house raids described above, Khairullah Khairkhwa, the governor of Herat under the Taliban, was captured in the border town of Chaman. Although described by the Pakistan Daily Times as one of the six most prominent hardliners loyal to Mullah Omar, Khairkhwa, who had been the Taliban’s interior minister until he was made the governor of Herat in October 1999, was adamant that he had nothing of value to offer the Americans. “My only purpose,” he said, “was to make transportation and communication easy for the people and to make bribery go away.” This, of course, may well have been a deliberate attempt to understate his role, but although the US authorities made several allegations about his purported involvement with Osama bin Laden, and his involvement in negotiations regarding military activities following the US-led invasion, it is unclear why Khairkhwa, like the other alleged Taliban leaders described in Part Two, has not been transferred back to Afghan custody now that his intelligence value has obviously been exhausted.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[...] want to quote at this point directly from Andy Worthington’s account, which is the source of most of these stories, though part of this particular case was also covered [...]
[...] since he was captured in 2001. You can read more about Omar Abdulayev on Andy Worthington’s site here. A real problem with many of these prisoners is that the US itself, which is responsible by dint of [...]
[...] Also, the US department of justice wanted to send him back to Tajikistan, from which he and his family had sought refuge when he was a child. He feared to return there, especially since his father had died trying to return to that country in 1994 and that his whole family has disappeared from Pakistan since he was captured in 2001. You can read more about Omar Abdulayev on Andy Worthington’s site here. [...]
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: