Mon, Mar 06, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Guantanamo Bay documents reveal Taliban's allure


A portrait of the Islamist ferment that attracted youths from across the Muslim world to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan five years ago emerges from the trove of documents on the "war on terror" detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But details about their role in the fighting in Afghanistan are often sparse in the reports, which were released on Friday by the Pentagon after losing a court battle to keep the names and personal details of the detainees secret.

Abdallah Salah Ali al-Ajmi, who deserted the Kuwaiti military to become a Taliban fighter, is fairly typical of the more than 300 detainees whose trajectories are sketched out in thousands of pages of documents.

The Kuwaiti allegedly admitted he fought with the Taliban against the US-backed Northern Alliance near Bagram and "engaged in two or three fire fights with the Northern Alliance," the report said.

Al-Ajmi "is regarded as a continued threat to the United States and its allies," the report said, noting that he had asserted that he considered himself a jihadist and "would kill as many Americans as he can."

Psychological ordeal

The psychological ordeal that befell some detainees at Guantanamo, where most have been held as "enemy combatants" for nearly four years without charges, is noted with clinical precision in some of the accounts prepared by the US military.

Mishal Awad Sayaf Alhabiri, who attempted suicide at the prison on Jan. 16, 2003, is considered for release in one document because he suffered "significant brain injury due to oxygen loss."

"He will need to be in some assisted living situation, though he can follow simple concrete directions," the report to a panel reviewing his case said.

Sofiane Haderbache, an alleged al-Qaeda member who traveled from France to Afghanistan, is described in another such document as a combative prisoner who defied guards by standing naked in his cell.

"Detainee's recorded behaviors, medication history and utilization pattern of psychiatric services suggest this detainee is regressing," the report says.


How individual detainees wound up in Guantanamo is a recurring subject of the documents, reflecting the military's efforts to piece together a picture of an enemy it knew little about before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

Taken together, they suggest that the movement of youths to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before and after Sept. 11 was a loosely organized affair.

They took different paths -- some clandestinely with false passports but others openly on commercial airline flights to Pakistan. Some came with connections to Islamist groups, while others seemingly acted on impulse.

They came from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Algeria, Britain, France, among other countries. Some came in through Iran, according to the report.

They often were put up at guesthouses run by groups of different nationalities, before moving on to training camps run by al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Osama bin Laden pops up as well in the reports, which carefully note if a detainee heard him speak or saw him while in Afghanistan. But in the accounts the al-Qaeda leader appears as someone seen at a distance.

The reports note detainees' connections to Islamist groups or other alleged jihadists. The Finsbury Park Mosque in London appears frequently in the reports as a stop for detainees who traveled to Afghanistan from Europe.

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