Number of Guantánamo Alum Rejoining Jihad Doubles in Six Months

Guantanamo inmate
Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images

A growing number of former Guantánamo Bay detainees are returning to the battlefield to fight for jihad, even as President Obama pushes a plan to close the prison for good.

Reuters reports the administration admitted that “the number of former Guantanamo Bay prison inmates who are suspected of having returned to fighting for militants doubled to 12 in the six months through January.”

“According to figures released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), as of Jan. 15 the United States also had confirmed that seven out of 144 Guantanamo prisoners who were freed since Obama took office in January 2009 have returned to fighting,” Reuters continues, noting the ODNI report does not give details about who the former detainees are fighting for.

The rate of jihadi recidivism may be increasing as more hardcore prisoners are sprung from Gitmo, but it was already dismaying during the Bush administration, when ODNI reports at least 111 of 532 prisoners returned to the battlefield after release, with another 74 suspected of doing so.

Vice News has some details about one confirmed “re-engagement,” namely Ibrahim al-Qosi, who was Osama bin Laden’s cook and driver. He is working for Al-Qaeda again, appearing in a recent propaganda video to encourage Somali militants to “light up the ground beneath the Crusaders, and teach them that the lands of Islam are a fortress that is not allowed to unbelievers, and a graveyard for the invaders.”

“Al-Qosi was captured in 2001 and was deemed by intelligence officials to be a ‘high-risk’ detainee,” Vice News writes. “He was released after he pleaded guilty in 2010 to war crimes charges of conspiracy and supporting terrorism. Originally sentenced to 14 years, it was reduced to two years because he cooperated with military officials.”

Both sides of the Guantánamo Bay issue will make political use of these recidivism statistics. Reuters turns their piece into a “Republicans pounce” story in the second paragraph, saying the increased rate of jihadi return “could fuel Republican attacks on Democratic President Barack Obama’s plan to close the U.S. military prison in Cuba, which has come to symbolize aggressive detention practices following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and opened the United States to accusations of torture.”

Vice News, meanwhile, quotes Raha Wala of Human Rights First praising the recidivism numbers as evidence of “what we we have known for some time: the process for clearing and transferring detainees is painstakingly careful and thorough.”


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