The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (9) – Seized in Pakistan (Part One)

This article was originally published on January 28, 2009. For updated information, please check out the links (by prisoner name and number) in my four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, last updated on April 25, 2012.

Chapter 12 of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, and available from Amazon here and here) tells the stories of 35 prisoners — mostly Arabs from other countries — who were seized in Pakistan between November 2001 and February 2002. Taken from cars and buses, seized in the street, or kidnapped in house raids, their capture seems largely to have been based on dubious intelligence on the part of both the US and Pakistani intelligence agents, a desire by the Pakistani authorities to be willing associates in the “War on Terror,” or the naked appeal of money, as the Americans were offering bounty payments averaging $5000 a head for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects,” and any stray foreigner was therefore an attractive proposition.

This extra chapter tells the stories of 21 prisoners who were not discussed in Chapter 12 of The Guantánamo Files, either because their stories were not available at the time, or to keep the book at a manageable length. The names of two more are listed at the end of the chapter. They were released before July 2004, and nothing is known about them because the Pentagon has not released any information relating to the 200 prisoners released in this period, and their stories have not surfaced in the media or in reports by human rights groups.

Of the 35 prisoners discussed in Chapter 10, 13 had been released at the time I completed the book (in May 2007), and another seven have been released since. In addition, 13 of the 21 prisoners discussed in this online chapter have also been released. Of the 23 who remained in US custody at the time of writing, several have been cleared for release, but cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will be tortured in their home countries, and many of the others are Yemenis, whose release — as I have discussed before — is contingent on successful diplomatic negotiations between the US and Yemen, rather than notions of justice. On reviewing the stories in this chapter of those who have not yet been released, I can find no substantial reasons for holding any of them (with one possible exception, discussed towards the end of the chapter).

Rounding up foreign stragglers

Like many of the stories in Chapter 12, those in this additional chapter largely feature solitary foreigners rounded up for little apparent reason, other than financial reward or as a demonstration of Pakistani support for the “War on Terror.” The Palestinian Assem Matruq al-Aasmi, for example, who is from Gaza, and was 21 years old at the time of his capture, was seized by the Pakistani authorities from a hospital and handed over — or sold — to the Americans.

Al-Aasmi’s story was typical of many of the Guantánamo prisoners. Recruited for jihad at a mosque in Saudi Arabia, he traveled to Afghanistan on a well-worn route via Iran, and arrived at al-Farouq (the main training camp for Arabs, established by the Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the early 1990s, but associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before 9/11) just two weeks before the attacks. In interrogation, al-Aasmi explained that he had never fired a weapon except in training, and that when al-Farouq closed, he was sent to Khost, near the Pakistani border, where he stayed in a tent for two months, along with “Taliban fighters coming back and forth from the front lines and people like him waiting for further instructions.” He was then injured in an accident involving a hand grenade, taken to a clinic in Khost, and smuggled across the border to a hospital in Pakistani, where a pin was placed in his leg, and he was eventually seized by the Pakistani authorities.

Al-Aasmi’s current status is unclear, but even if he has been cleared for release, he is effectively stateless. He has stated that, if released, he “would go to Saudi Arabia, work for two years, and then return to Gaza and raise a family,” but this is highly unlikely, as the Saudis will almost certainly not press for his return, and the Israeli government has failed to assist in the repatriation of the few Palestinians held at Guantánamo.

Adel Noori, who was 22 years old at the time of his capture, is one of 22 Uighurs (Muslims from China’s oppressed Xinjiang province), who were all cleared for release after a US court dismissed the government’s evidence that they were associated with terrorism in a court case last June as being akin to a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In October last year, a judge ordered their release to the United States, as it was unsafe for them to return to China, and no other country had been found that was prepared to accept them, but at the time of writing this had been stayed pending the outcome of an unprincipled appeal by the government.

Like all his fellow countrymen, Noori maintained that he had only one enemy — the Chinese Communist government. He explained that he was “never asked to participate in a jihad against the United States while in Afghanistan,” and “had no negative feelings toward the United States.” Unlike his compatriots, however, most of whom were captured together and sold to the Americans after fleeing to Pakistan from a settlement in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains, Noori had arrived in Kabul in July 2001 and had stayed at a house until the US began bombing the city in October. In a statement for his tribunal at Guantánamo in 2004, he denied an allegation that he received training on an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol while staying at the house, which was described as a “training camp,” saying that he “saw these things, but did not train on them. It was a small house and not a training camp. There wasn’t any room for training.”

When the bombing began, he said that he and the other Uighurs in the house “ran in all directions for safety.” He and three companions ended up fleeing to Pakistan, where, according to the US authorities, they “were arrested by the Pakistani police while trying to evade detection (dressed in burkas)” in Lahore on January 15, 2002. In the Unclassified Summary of Evidence for his last review at Guantánamo in 2005, it was stated that his three companions were “Maneh and Ibrahim from Saudi Arabia, and Ibrahim from Morocco.” These were probably Ibrahim al-Umar, a Saudi released in May 2003 (about whom nothing else is known), Ibrahim Benchekroun, a Moroccan released in July 2004, and Mani al-Utaybi, a Saudi who died in Guantánamo in June 2006, apparently as part of a coordinated suicide plan with two other prisoners.

Also seized randomly was Said al-Farha (also known as Said al-Farha al-Ghamidi), a 22-year old Saudi (released in December 2006), who, the Americans acknowledged, had traveled to Pakistan in November 2001 and had taught at a mosque in Quetta that was run by Jamaat-al-Tablighi, the vast worldwide missionary organization, which is generally slandered by the authorities in Guantánamo as a front for terrorist activities. However, despite this non-military explanation for his presence in Pakistan, he was also accused of having “recruited at least two individuals for al-Qaeda,” and of having “facilitated travel for individuals traveling to Afghanistan for al-Qaeda.” In his last review, in April 2006, the unsubstantiated nature of these allegations — which plague the so-called evidence against numerous prisoners — was spelled out in full. An unidentified “source” identified al-Farha as “a recruiter for al-Qaeda,” and another “source” — allegedly “an al-Qaeda recruit” — said that he had “assisted him with travel to Afghanistan.”

Said al-Farha was not the only missionary to run up against unsubstantiated allegations from other prisoners that were at odds with his account. The Saudi Mohammed al-Qurbi (released in September 2007), who was 23 years old at the time of his capture, said that he was arrested by the Pakistani police in Quetta in October 2001, and was handed over to the Americans on November 25. He explained that he had traveled once to Pakistan via Syria and Malaysia, and had then traveled again to Pakistan, to attend a conference run by Jamaat-al-Tablighi, but was arrested before he got there. He insisted that he had never set foot in Afghanistan, even though it was alleged that he was identified as an al-Qaeda operative by one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, that he had managed a hostel for the Taliban, and that he was part of the “security element” for Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged facilitator of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Captured in the UAE in November 2002, and held in secret CIA-run prisons until his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006, al-Nashiri may, therefore, have been the source of these allegations.

Another wounded straggler was the 25-year old Yemeni Sadeq Mohammed Said (released in June 2007), who was accused of traveling to Afghanistan in May 2001 and serving as a courier for the Taliban. Although he had been injured in an aerial bombing attack near Khost, and was captured after crossing the border into Pakistan, the US authorities managed to claim, based on an unsubstantiated allegation, presumably from another prisoner, that he was captured in Tora Bora, during the “final showdown” with al-Qaeda that never was, as Osama bin Laden and the senior leadership of al-Qaeda slipped away across the unguarded border to Pakistan.

An odd story was that of Rashid al-Uwaydah, a 25-year old Saudi (released in May 2006), who arrived in Pakistan in July 2001 “to escape possible arrest by the Saudi authorities for drug dealing,” but who hoped nevertheless to buy drugs in Pakistan to sell in Saudi Arabia. After losing his passport, he was arrested in Islamabad with some Libyans he had met, who, he said, were from an official group recognized by the Libyan government, but who the Americans claimed were “helping Arabs get out of Pakistan.” It has not, to date, been possible to identify what happened to the Libyans seized with al-Uwaydah.

A particularly bizarre story was told by Omar Abdulayev, a 23-year old Tajik, who had left his war-torn country and moved to Afghanistan with his family in 1992, and had then moved to a refugee camp outside Peshawar in 2000. “When we were in Afghanistan, no matter where we went, there were always wars,” he said. “Since my father was killed, we always obeyed my mother; it was my mother’s decision to move to Pakistan because she said it was at least a peaceful country with no war going on. My father was killed a long, long time ago. Because of this, we have to listen to our mother; it is our culture.”

In his tribunal at Guantánamo, Abdulayev said that he was seized in a bazaar in December 2001 by ISI operatives who asked him for a bribe which he couldn’t pay, and stated that he was then beaten and forced to copy various documents including three hand-written notebooks containing information on weapons systems, counter-intelligence, chemistry and poisons. By the time of his latest publicly available review, in August 2006, it seemed more reasonable to assume that the notebooks were his own, and that, as he apparently admitted, he had copied the information while he was a student at a madrassa, but the US authorities had still not managed to build a case that he was actually involved with terrorist activities. The truth, perhaps, was as Abdulayev stated in his tribunal: “The Pakistanis are making business out of this war, including myself. The detainees are not being captured by US forces, but are being sold by the Pakistani government. They are making [up to] $10,000 to sell detainees to the US … they knew that the more evidence they created, the more dangerous they made me, the more money they would make from the Americans.”

Also captured at this time was Abu Sufian Hamouda (known to the Pentagon as Abu Sufian bin Qumu), a 42-year old Libyan, who was released in October 2007. According to information gathered by the US military over the preceding five years, he had served in the Libyan army as a tank driver from 1979 to 1990, but was “arrested and jailed on multiple occasions for drug and alcohol offenses.” Having apparently escaped from prison in 1992, he fled to Sudan, where he worked as a truck driver. In an attempt to beef up the evidence against him, the Department of Defense alleged that the company he worked for, the Wadi al-Aqiq company, was “owned by Osama bin Laden,” and also attempted to claim that he joined the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militant group opposed to the rule of Colonel Gaddafi, even while admitting that an unidentified “al-Qaeda/LIFG facilitator” had described him as “a noncommittal LIFG member who received no training.”

After relocating to Pakistan, Hamouda apparently stayed there until the summer of 2001, when he and a friend crossed the border into Afghanistan, traveling to Jalalabad and then to Kabul, where Hamouda found a job working as an accountant for Abdul Aziz al-Matrafi (photo, left), the director of al-Wafa, a Saudi charity which provided humanitarian aid to Afghans, but which was regarded by the US authorities as a front for al-Qaeda. Over the years, dozens of Guantánamo detainees were tarred as terrorists because of their associations with al-Wafa, but almost all have now been released. As with other prisoners, claims that al-Wafa had any connection with al-Qaeda appeared dubious.

In Hamouda’s case, for example, it was stated that “Members of the Taliban would frequently visit the al-Wafa office in Kabul and had dealings with the director of that office,” which was hardly surprising, as the Taliban was the government at the time. Less clear is a claim that, according to various accounts, including a statement allegedly made by Hamouda, “the director of the al-Wafa office was connected to al-Qaeda and knew Osama bin Laden.” Even setting aside the dubious circumstances under which this “confession” was produced, other prisoners have claimed that bin Laden was actually suspicious of al-Wafa, because of its Saudi links.

What’s apparent, however, is that Hamouda’s involvement with the organization centered on its humanitarian work, as another “allegation,” which actually had nothing to do with terrorism, made clear. In the “evidence” presented for his Combatant Status Review Tribunal — under factors purporting to demonstrate that he “supported military operations against the United States or its coalition partners” — it was stated that, while working for al-Wafa, he traveled to Kunduz “to oversee the distribution of rice that was being guarded by four to five armed guards.” In Guantánamo, it seems, even the distribution of rice can be regarded as a component in a military operation.

Captured in Islamabad, after fleeing from Afghanistan following the US-led invasion, Hamouda was held for a month by the Pakistani authorities, and was then handed over to the Americans, who began mining him for the flimsy “evidence” of terrorist activities outlined above.

Another prisoner associated with al-Wafa was the 27-year old Saudi Zaid al-Husain al-Ghamdi, released in November 2007, whose family did not even know he was in Guantánamo until the start of that year, because the US authorities had described him as a Jordanian. Al-Ghamdi traveled to Afghanistan in July 2001, and was declared an “enemy combatant” after his tribunal in October 2004 on the basis of three particularly thin allegations: that he was a member of al-Wafa, that he “carried a weapon in Afghanistan,” and that he was “present and wounded during military operations at Khost” in December 2001. These allegations were augmented in the years that followed, but nothing about these additional claims suggests that they were reliable.

The authorities alleged that al-Ghamdi “was identified” as the “occasional leader” of a group of fighters in the northern city of Taloqan, but ignored another narrative that could be pieced together from other statements: that he reported that he left home “to provide help for the refugees in Afghanistan,” that he worked for al-Wafa as a laborer in Kabul, and that he traveled to Taloqan because, after approaching Taliban representatives in Kabul to find out “places needing assistance with orphans,” he had been told that Taloqan was a suitable area. The additional information compiled by the authorities also provided an explanation for the circumstances of his capture, which contradicted the claim that he was “wounded during military operations.” After fleeing to Khost, al-Ghamdi said that he “stopped in the first Taliban center he came to,” which was subsequently bombed. Injured and “rendered unconscious,” he awoke in a hospital in Miram Shah, in Pakistan, where he was arrested and transferred to US custody.

The stories above demonstrate that both the Pakistani and the American authorities were adept at inventing or otherwise eliciting stories of militancy from the prisoners they captured at this time, as there was, for the most part, very little raw material with which to work, and the story of Mubarak Hashem, a 23-year old Bangladeshi (released in December 2006), is particularly illuminating in this regard. The only allegations that surfaced against him were that he traveled from Karachi to Kabul via Quetta, Spin Boldak and Kandahar in December 2001, that he was arrested in Peshawar by the Pakistani authorities “for not having any identification,” and that he “provided a false identity to Pakistani authorities.” These allegations were so thin that it must have taken considerable effort to fill in the gaps that were required to construe him as a militant: that, because he had been in Afghanistan, he must have been fighting, and that, because he had no passport, he must have attended a military training camp.

Some random Afghans and Pakistanis

Others who undoubtedly fitted into this category of blank slates to be filled with whatever allegations the authorities thought they could get away with were two Afghans, 29-year old Sherghulab Mirmuhammad, and 25-year old Din Mohammed Farhad. Seized while working as a laborer in Pakistan, Mirmuhammad was one of the first prisoners to be released from Guantánamo, in March 2003, and all that is known about him is a comment he made as he was set free in Kabul, when he said, “I am not angry at the Americans, but I am angry at the Pakistanis because they arrested me.” Farhad (released in September 2004) had run a grocery shop in Kabul before the US-led invasion. While in US detention in Afghanistan, he told the British prisoner Moazzam Begg that he had been sold to the Americans as an al-Qaeda sympathizer after he fled to Pakistan, and added that he thought that he had aroused suspicion because many of his customers — like Begg, who had visited his shop on a regular basis while living in Kabul — had been foreigners.

Another unfortunate victim of Pakistani zeal (or opportunism) was Saeed Abdur Rahman, a 36-year old Pakistani (released in September 2004), who was at home in his village, scraping a living as a poor chicken farmer, when the police raided his house in January 2002, arresting him and telling him that he could not bribe his way to freedom. Delivered to the Americans, he was accused of being Abdur Rahman Zahid, one of the Taliban’s deputy ministers of foreign affairs, and was later accused of having been a Taliban military judge and a prison guard in Kandahar, who “tortured, maimed and murdered” Afghan prisoners, even though Rahman said that, after he was handed over to the US forces, “An American told me I was wrongfully taken and that in a couple of days I’d be freed.” What made these allegations all the more incomprehensible was that, in December 2001, Mullah Khaksar, a former Taliban minister who had actually been working as a spy for the Northern Alliance since 1997, said that Abdur Rahman Zahid “had deliberately created the impression that he entered Pakistan, but had in fact returned to his home village in Logar province.”

Another thin set of allegations was leveled against Abdullah Mohammed Khan, a 36-year old Afghan Uzbek, who was released in May 2008. A former mujahid against the Russians, Khan was arrested in Peshawar, in 2001, at the house of a Syrian acquaintance called Musa, who, according to the US authorities, was an al-Qaeda suspect identified as Abd al-Hamid al-Suri. Khan denied knowing anything about any connection that Musa might have had with al-Qaeda, saying that all he knew was that he came to Pakistan from Turkey with his family for medical treatment on his feet, which were “in very bad condition.” He also denied knowing anything about a CD containing explosives-making manuals that was apparently discovered in Musa’s house. Released after being questioned by a Pakistani and an American, he was arrested a second time in January 2002, when traces of explosives were allegedly found on his fingers. Again, he denied the allegation, saying, “I never touched any kind of explosives after the Russians [left],” but this time he was seized and sent to Guantánamo, on what, it appears, was little more than a whim.

At his Administrative Review Board, he ran up against a litany of allegations made by other prisoners, which are shockingly prevalent in the transcripts of the hearings, even though there is no indication of the circumstances under which the “confessions” were elicited, and, moreover, no attempt was made to verify whether or not they were true. When faced with these allegations, Khan duly denied a claim that “an al-Qaeda detainee” had identified him in a photo as Abdul Latif al-Turki, explaining that this was the name of the person who had provided him with a false Turkish passport to enter Pakistan, and adding that he was always known by his real name, and that “if you really showed somebody my picture and they told you my name is Abdul … he was lying.” He also denied a similar allegation from “A Libyan Islamic Fighting Group member,” who identified him as “al-Turki” and said that he saw him several times at the al-Ansar guest house in Pakistan, and an allegation from an Iraqi detainee who had apparently identified him in a photo and said that he had seen him at a guest house on the Taliban front lines in Kabul in 1999 or 2000. “About two years ago,” he explained, “I was prepared to be released from here. At that point I lived with some Iraqi people and because they disliked me they were lying, they were throwing some allegations on me and that’s why my process has stopped and that’s why I have not been released.”

Shorn of these additional allegations, the case against Khan was summarized by his Designated Military Officer (the officer assigned to the prisoners instead of a lawyer in the ARBs), who stated, “Detainee argues that he is innocent of all the charges brought before him other than that he was associated with Musa,” to which Khan added, “That’s correct. Again, I had some association with Musa and also I had a bad passport, that’s the only things that occurred.”

In one case at least (in addition to another few examples described in Chapter 12), the authorities succeeded in capturing someone who was actually associated with the Taliban, although the prisoner in question, a 50-year old Afghan named Mohammed Saduq (identified by the Pentagon as Mahmud Sadik), had such a lowly role that he was released in July 2003. According to Tom Lasseter of McClatchy Newspapers, who tracked him down last year, as part of an investigation that included interviews with 66 released prisoners, Saduq explained that he “wasn’t surprised” when Pakistani troops came to his house to detain him, in the border town of Chaman, in late 2001. “I was a Taliban, so I didn’t bother asking why they arrested me,” he said. Held for three weeks in Pakistani custody, he was then transferred to American control, and was taken first to Bagram and then Kandahar.

Saduq explained that he had told US interrogators that he had been appointed to run an orphanage north of Kabul, and was not a major player, and this was confirmed by Shir Mohammed, the first governor of Helmand province under Hamid Karzai, who told Lasseter that he had arrested Saduq in the early days of the Taliban, but added, “He was not a military guy, he was not a minister, but he was someone the Taliban consulted with because he was seen as someone who understood politics.” As Lasseter explained, his relatively swift release “suggests that American interrogators didn’t consider him a threat or an important figure in the Taliban,” and that he “appears to be one more in a long line of detainees of little intelligence value,” who remained in US custody — often for three or four years — and were then released.

Speaking by phone from Chaman, Saduq told Lasseter that, at Bagram, the interrogators “seemed bored to hear about his job at the orphanage, but they perked up when he told them that on several occasions he’d met Mullah Omar,” even though he “had no idea where Mullah Omar could be hiding,” and was “also in the dark about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.” He added that even if he had had any information, he “wouldn’t have passed it along after the soldiers who guarded him on the plane from Pakistan punched and kicked him.”

At Kandahar, Saduq said that he was “stripped naked and given new prison clothes, then was taken to the piece of plywood he would sleep on, underneath a plastic tarp,” and was again questioned about Omar and bin Laden. “During my fourth interrogation,” he said, “a man was asking me these same questions, and when I answered he became very angry. He said I was not telling the truth. He began insulting me; he shouted that he would let his soldiers rape me. He was punching the table.” He explained, however, that he was “never hit during interrogations but that guards often beat his head against a wall on the way there and back.”

At Guantánamo, it appeared that the interrogators had already given up on him. He said that he was interrogated every three or four weeks, but that he was questioned daily about his health before his release, as the authorities had discovered that he had tuberculosis, and he “figured that they were afraid he’d fall seriously ill after he got home.”

Six prisoners caught in house raids

The last six prisoners to be discussed in this additional chapter were seized in house raids in Karachi on February 7, 2002. The US authorities have maintained that they were all seized in a house belonging to Abdu Ali Sharqawi, a Yemeni known as Riyadh the Facilitator, who was apparently responsible for moving Arab recruits in and out of Afghanistan, but, as I report in The Guantánamo Files, a former interrogator in the US prisons in Afghanistan explained that they were actually “found in a couple of safe houses in an ethnically Arab district.” Nine of these prisoners — seemingly a mixture of foot soldiers and civilians — are discussed in Chapter 12, and these additional profiles also indicate that the “safe houses” were an impromptu system developed to help all Arabs evade capture by the opportunistic Pakistani authorities, and not just those who were connected with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Three of the prisoners — Zahir bin Hamdoun (also identified as Zaher Omer Khamis), a 22-year old Yemeni, Abdul Hakim al-Mousa, a 25-year old Saudi, and Mansoor Qattaa (also identified as Masour Mohamed Mutaya Ali), a 19-year old Saudi — were accused of arriving in Pakistan after training or combat in Afghanistan, but there is little, if anything in their stories to mark them out as anything more than foot soldiers. 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. Al-Mousa was accused of undertaking military training at guest houses in Afghanistan over the period of a month, and Qattaa (photo, left) was accused of spending approximately nine weeks in Afghanistan before making his way to Karachi via various safe houses, but only Qattaa was accused of taking part in any kind of combat, when, having made his way to Afghanistan independently, and having spent a month in Logar province “waiting for training,” he allegedly “walked to a fighting position and stayed for approximately five weeks.” In al-Mousa’s case, the US authorities were clearly so desperate that they resorted to guilt by association: it was alleged that one of the people he was captured with attended al-Farouq and “was escorted by a senior al-Qaeda member to a meeting where he presented money to Osama bin Laden,” and that another “was present at a speech given by Osama bin Laden at the camp.”

A fourth prisoner seized in the raids, Zohair al-Shorabi (also identified as Zuhail al-Sharabi), a 24-year old Yemeni, stated that he went to Pakistan in 1999 to find work, and that he subsequently established a trading business, but was accused of attending a Libyan training camp near Kabul, and of fighting on the Taliban front lines. 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,” but while this allegation matches 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, a more worrying allegation, also unsubstantiated, is 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.

The other two prisoners seized in the raids provided explanations for being in Afghanistan that had nothing to do with fighting. Salah al-Zabe, a 29-year old Saudi taxi driver (who has been cleared for release), said that he had moved to Afghanistan with his family in 1999, and 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.

The most convoluted story was that told by Sabri al-Qurashi, a 31-year old Yemeni, who 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 another of the senior al-Qaeda figures 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 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.”

It’s also probable that Sohab Mahud Mohammed, a 20-year old Iraqi (released in March 2004) and Reda El-Weleli, a 35-year old Egyptian (released in July 2003) were captured at this time, but nothing is known of their stories.

Notes

Al-Aasmi (ISN 49): CSRT Set 40, pp. 1-8; ARB Set 1, pp. 20-5; ARB 2 Factors Set 1, pp. 96-7; Noori (ISN 584): CSRT Set 1, p. 45; ARB Factors Sep 07 Set 6, pp. 52-4; al-Umar (ISN 585); Benchekroun (ISN 587); al-Utaybi (ISN 588); Al-Farha (ISN 341): CSRB Set 3, pp. 92-3; ARB 2 Factors Set 6, pp. 29-30; al-Qurbi (ISN 342): CSRT Set 22, pp. 10-14; ARB Set 6, pp. 106-12; Said (ISN 69): CSRT Set 4, pp. 145-8; ARB Factors Set 1, pp. 30-1; al-Uwaydah (ISN 664): ARB Set 8, pp. 46-60; Abdulayev (ISN 257): CSRT Set 20, pp. 1-8; ARB 2 Factors Set 5, pp. 14-16; Hamouda (bin Qumu) (ISN 557): CSRB Set 3, pp. 155-6; al-Ghamdi (ISN 50): ARB Factors Set 1, 90-2; Hashem (ISN 151): CSRB Set 3, p. 161; Mirmuhammad (ISN 313); Farhad (ISN 699); Rahman (ISN 581): CSRT Set 3, pp. 68-90; Khan (ISN 556): ARB Set 7, pp. 98-110; Saduq (ISN 512); bin Hamdoun (ISN 576): CSRB Set 3, p. 260; ARB 2 Factors Set 7, pp. 74-6; al-Mousa (ISN 565): ARB Factors Set 2, pp. 17-18; Qattaa (ISN 566): ARB 2 Factors Set 7, pp. 59-60; al-Shorabi (ISN 569): ARB 2 Factors Set 7, pp. 63-5; al-Zabe (ISN 572): CSRT Set 44, pp. 74-81; al-Qurashi (ISN 570): ARB Set 7, pp. 187-98; Sohab Mohammed (ISN 563); El-Weleli (ISN 663).

Abbreviations used in the Notes (amended April 2012)

“CSRT” and “ARB” refer to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which were held at Guantánamo from July 2004 to March 2005, and the first round of Administrative Review Boards, annual reviews held from December 2004 onwards. The transcripts of these hearings, released by the Pentagon in March and April 2006, can be found here. In addition to the transcripts of the CSRT and ARB hearings, this page also provides access to the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence for over a hundred ARB hearings.

“CSRB” refers to the Combatant Status Review Boards. These documents, which comprise the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence for 517 of the 558 CSRT hearings, were released by the Pentagon in 2005 under Freedom of Information legislation, although they are no longer online. For these transcripts, I have chosen a numbering system similar to that used for the CSRT and ARB hearings, so that, for example, “March 2005 Release” becomes “CSRB Set 3.”

“ARB 2” refers to the second round of Administrative Review Boards. The transcripts of these hearings, released by the Pentagon in September 2007 (after I completed The Guantánamo Files) can be found on the same Pentagon page as linked to above, under the heading “Administrative Review Board (ARB) Documents –- Round Two” and the sub-heading “Transcripts and Certain Documents from Administrative Review Boards (ARB) Round Two (held at Guantánamo in 2006).” Also included are the Unclassified Summaries for all the second round ARB hearings, under the sub-heading “Summaries of Detention-Release Factors for Administrative Review Boards (ARB) Round Two (held at Guantánamo),” which are referred to in the Notes as “ARB 2 Factors,” and below these are heavily redacted documents explaining decisions relating to the release or transfer of detainees. Also included are links to detailed and very useful indexes.

The documents released in September 2007 also augmented the information contained in previously released documents. This release has now been incorporated into the Pentagon page linked to above, but in the Notes above there are references to all the Unclassified Summaries from the CSRT process (with names and ISN numbers) — only 517 of which had been previously issued without names or numbers (see “CSRB” above) — which were included in this release of documents, and references to these documents are labeled as “CSRT Factors.” This release also included all the Unclassified Summaries from the first round ARBs, instead of the limited number released in 2006 (see “ARB Factors” above), and references to these documents in the Notes are labeled “ARB Factors Sep 07.” Also included are heavily redacted documents explaining decisions relating to the release or transfer of detainees.

“ISN” refers to “Internment Serial Numbers,” the unique number assigned to each prisoner in Guantánamo. A list of the 558 prisoners (identified by name, nationality and ISN) who went through the CSRT process can be found here. A list of 759 prisoners, including the 201 released or transferred before the CSRT process began (identified by name, nationality, date and place of birth and ISN), can be found here.

Some of the references in the Notes will not correspond to the files on the Pentagon’s current CSRT/ARB page, and if this is the case, then readers are directed to the New York Times‘ excellent project, The Guantánamo Docket, where all the CSRT and ARB documents can be searched for using the prisoners’ names or ISN numbers.

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, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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