Detainees 'Return to the Fight'

Recidivism is
Recidivism is "a real concern," a Pentagon spokesman says. The Defense Intelligence Agency has verified at least 18 cases. (By Brennan Linsley -- Associated Press)
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Monday, February 23, 2009

How many other Guantanamo Bay detainees have committed terrorist acts after being released?

According to Pentagon officials, the number could be as high as 60. The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded in January that 17 former Guantanamo inmates, in addition to Abdallah al-Ajmi, have "returned to the fight," and it suspects, but does not have conclusive proof, that 43 others have as well.

Recidivism is "a real concern," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

But the Pentagon has declined to release a list of names, prompting Guantanamo opponents to question whether some former detainees are being counted simply because they have made public comments critical of the United States.

In a paper published last year, Mark Denbeaux, a professor at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, wrote that several former detainees described in a July 2007 Pentagon news release about recidivism "were accused of nothing more than speaking critically of the Government's detention policies." In that release, the Pentagon said that 30 former Guantanamo detainees have taken part in "anti-coalition militant activities," but the document named only seven people.

Said Jennifer Daskal, a senior counterterrorism lawyer at Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group that has been critical of U.S. military detention practices: "The fact that the Pentagon has failed to provide supporting information should lead to a healthy dose of skepticism."

A senior Defense Department official said the Pentagon is planning to release a partial list of names but will not cite all of them out of a concern that some people could be tipped off that they are under surveillance. "With a lot of these guys, we don't want them to know that we know," the official said.

Among the seven cited in the 2007 news release are:

· Mohamed Yusif Yaqub, who was released in May 2003 and shortly thereafter assumed control of Taliban operations in southern Afghanistan. He was killed in May 2004 while fighting U.S. forces.

· Abdullah Mahsud, who was released in March 2004 and became a militant leader in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. He is accused of directing the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers. In 2007, he blew himself up as Pakistani police closed in on him.

· Maulavi Abdul Ghaffar, who was released in late 2002 and became the Taliban's regional commander in Uruzgan and Helmand provinces. He was killed in a raid by Afghan security forces in September 2004.

The release also indicated that the "Tipton Three" -- Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul -- were among the 30 deemed to have returned to the fight. The trio, who are childhood friends, have been living in Britain since their release and have not been charged with any crime there. They did, however, appear in the movie "The Road to Guantanamo," in which they recounted their experiences at the prison.

-- Rajiv Chandrasekaran

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