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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2 Guantanamo detainees transferred to Saudi Arabia -- By Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal

The Defense Department announced the transfer of two Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia today. Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and Hamood Abdulla Hamood were both previously approved for transfer from the detention facility by President Obama's Guantanamo Review Task Force.

The task force made its final recommendations in January 2010. The body concluded that both men could be transferred "subject to appropriate security measures."

Previously, Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) recommended that both detainees be retained in US custody. JTF-GTMO's threat assessments for both detainees, which were authored before the task force was commissioned in January 2009, have been leaked online.

JTF-GTMO classified both men as "high" risks who are "likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies."

Military officials determined that both men had served in Osama bin Laden's 55th Arab Brigade, which "served as [bin Laden's] primary battle formation supporting Taliban objectives, with [bin Laden] participating closely in the command and control of the brigade."

JTF-GTMO's disagreement with Bush administration's transfer approval
Prior to the decision by President Obama's task force, Qahtani was also approved for transfer by a designated civilian official in the Bush administration. According to a leaked memo dated Jan. 5, 2009, however, JTF-GTMO disagreed with this official's decision.

JTF-GTMO concluded that Qahtani is an "al Qaeda member who swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden" and "participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces on the front lines and in [bin Laden's] Tora Bora Mountain complex in Afghanistan."

JTF-GTMO warned that Qahtani admitted "receiving al Qaeda funds for distribution on the front lines" and that he "attended extremist training camps," where he "possibly received additional, advanced training." Qahtani also allegedly "acknowledged his associations with numerous al Qaeda members, leaders, and other extremists, including at least five 11 September 2001 hijackers."

In addition to allegedly admitting his ties al Qaeda, JTF-GTMO reported that Qahtani "admitted associations with multiple terrorist groups and terrorist support entities," including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), both of which have been supported by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment.

An unnamed "senior al Qaeda member" also reportedly told authorities that Qahtani had "volunteered for a suicide mission." The senior al Qaeda leader who fingered Qahtani is not identified in the Guantanamo files, but a footnote indicates that this reporting was from 2004.

Qahtani's testimony at Guantanamo

According to declassified documents, Qahtani testified at least twice during hearings at Guantanamo. In general, Qahtani disputed the most serious allegations against him, even while admitting details that connected him to the al Qaeda network.

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