A detainee review board has recommended that a jihadist held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 be transferred to Yemen.
The prisoner, Ali Ahmad Mohamed al Razihi, was a member of a group U.S. officials nicknamed the "Dirty 30.” Its members, said to include Osama bin Laden's bodyguards, were captured in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001.
U.S. officials have also said they believe Razihi trained with al-Qaida and “provided logistical support” for the terrorist organization.
Razihi was described as a "high" risk to the United States and its allies in a leaked 2008 threat review by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, the Long War Journal reported. The task force recommended that he remain in custody.
The task force established by President Barack Obama to review the detainees held there also recommended in 2010 that Razihi remain in indefinite military detention.
The classification meant the government had decided against prosecution, concluding that he was too dangerous to be transferred to another country or released.
But a board charged with conducting regular reviews of detainees’ status announced last week that Razihi’s detention "is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."
Citing Razihi's "plans for the future and commitment not to repeat past mistakes" and his “well-established, educated family with the willingness and ability to support him,” the review board "strongly" recommended that he be transferred to Yemen.
The board also praised Razihi's "largely peaceful, non-violent approach to detention and his positive attitude toward future potential participation in a rehabilitation program" to ensure he does not affiliate with radicals after he leaves the military prison at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In deciding to recommend Razihi’s release, the review board last week pointed to what it described as his “lack of ties to at-large extremists.” That assessment, however, contrasted sharply with Razihi’s Guantanamo Detainee Profile of Dec. 17, 2013. It says that prior to his capture in December 2001, he “traveled in 1999 from Yemen to Afghanistan, where he almost certainly joined and trained with al-Qaida” and “provided logistical support at al-Qaida guesthouses.”
It added that Razihi is also believed to have written “from Afghanistan to his family that he intended to participate in jihad, and his aliases were listed on several al-Qa’ida training applications, rosters, and personnel forms.”
The December report described Razihi as “non-cooperative” with interrogators, saying he has avoided interviews since 2010.
It is unclear when the transfer will occur, because the board also recommended Razihi's transfer must be accompanied by an improvement in the security situation in Yemen – home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the terrorist network’s most dangerous affiliates. Since it was established five years ago, it has been involved in numerous plots to attack the United States, including the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight near Detroit and an October 2010 plot to send explosive-laden packages to the United States.
The Razihi announcement comes amid reports that many freed detainees are returning to the battlefield. In March, the director of U.S. National Intelligence reported that out of 614 released prisoners, 104 have returned to terrorist or insurgent activities with 74 more suspected of doing so.
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