By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 25, 2007
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, the most recent al-Qaeda operative to be captured and held in the secret CIA rendition program before being sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in April, was captured in Turkey late last year and turned over to U.S. intelligence by that government, a senior al-Qaeda figure said in an Arabic-language interview broadcast yesterday in the Middle East.
U.S. intelligence and White House officials said that information on Hadi was classified and that they could not confirm the account. When news of his capture was announced last month, officials said only that he had been in custody in a third country since December.
When 14 previously secret prisoners were transferred to Guantanamo last fall, the administration said they were the only ones remaining in the rendition system but declined to say that the program had been terminated. In April, the Pentagon announced Hadi's arrival at Guantanamo.
Bush referred to Hadi in a speech Wednesday, calling him one of Osama bin Laden's "most experienced paramilitary leaders." He was sent to Iraq by the al-Qaeda leader to help drive out U.S. forces and further a plan "to launch new attacks on America and other nations" from there, Bush said.
Although Bush provided no time frame for Hadi's travels, he cited them as a reason why U.S. forces must not withdraw from Iraq. Bin Laden has threatened to establish an international base of operations in Iraq, Bush said, and "is matching his words with actions." Hadi "never made it to Iraq," he said. "He was captured late last year."
Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a senior al-Qaeda figure interviewed by al-Jazeera television, said Hadi had been sent to Iraq 18 months ago. At that time, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was resisting orders from bin Laden to tone down the brutality of his attacks against Iraqi civilians.
Hadi "was arrested in Turkey," Yazid said, and "handed over to the Americans." Yazid was identified as the new al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, and U.S. officials confirmed his status as a senior figure in the organization.
A Pentagon announcement in April said only that Hadi "was trying to return to his native country" when captured and had passed through Iran. It said he was a former member of the Iraqi military, a top bin Laden aide and an expert in guerrilla operations. His name first appeared on a U.S. terrorist-designation list on Sept. 23, 2001.