Guantánamo Leaks Lift Lid on Most Controversial Prison

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Innocent people interrogated for years on slimmest pretexts

Children, elderly and mentally ill among those wrongfully held

172 prisoners remain, some with no prospect of trial or release

By David Leigh, James Ball, Ian Cobain and Jason Burke

More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantánamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America’s controversial prison camp in Cuba.

The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how, alongside the so-called “worst of the worst”, many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.

The 759 Guantánamo files, classified “secret”, cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there.

The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.

The old man was transported to Cuba to interrogate him about “suspicious phone numbers” found in his compound. The 14-year-old was shipped out merely because of “his possible knowledge of Taliban…local leaders”

The documents also reveal:

US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.

Interrogators were told to regard links to any of these as an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity.

Almost 100 of the inmates who passed through Guantánamo are listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide.

A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members.

One Briton, Jamal al-Harith, was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. The US military tried to hang on to another Briton, Binyam Mohamed, even after charges had been dropped and evidence emerged he had been tortured.

US authorities relied heavily on information obtained from a small number of detainees under torture. They continued to maintain this testimony was reliable even after admitting that the prisoners who provided it had been mistreated.

The files also show that a large number of the detainees who have left Guantanamo were designated “high risk” by the camp authorities before their release or transfer to other countries. . . .

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U.S. Drone Missile Kills Filipino Bomber in Pakistan

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Inquirer.net, News Report, Philippine Daily Inquirer

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — An alleged Abu Sayyaf demolition expert wanted by the United States for $1M is believed to have been killed in an American drone strike close to the Afghan border earlier this month, Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday.

If confirmed, the death of Abdul Basit Usman would represent another success for the U.S. covert missile program on targets in Pakistan. There have been an unprecedented number of attacks this month following a deadly Dec. 30 bombing of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) base in Afghanistan.

There had been no previous indication that Usman, who was captured by Philippine authorities in 2002 but escaped months later, was in Pakistan.

If the reports of his death are true, it may indicate stronger ties between the worldwide terror group al-Qaida and Southeast Asian extremist groups than previously thought.

In Manila, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it was verifying the report.

AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. told reporters military intelligence was still checking if indeed it was Usman who was killed in Pakistan.

Brawner said an intelligence report “sometime last year” indicated Usman was still in Mindanao. “We are still waiting for the report from our intelligence,” he said.

But if the report of Usman’s death was true, it would “to some extent” cripple the capability of the Abu Sayyaf, Brawner said.

MILF Welcomes Report

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expressed relief at the report.

“We are happy and we welcome the report. We hope it is true,” Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, said.

Kabalu said Usman’s death vindicated the MILF, which had been accused by the military of coddling the alleged bomber.

Usman was linked to a series of attacks in Mindanao, including the 2006 bombing in Makilala, North Cotabato, that killed half a dozen people.

In 2002, cohorts sprang him from the Sarangani provincial jail. He escaped along with Pentagon gang leader Alonto Tahir.

Maguindanao Tribe

Kabalu said Usman belonged to the Maguindanao tribe, having been born and raised in Ampatuan town.

There were also reports that Usman was involved in extortion activities of the Abu Sofia and the al-Khobar gangs, which have been linked to the Abu Sayyaf.

Kabalu said Usman had never been an MILF member but that his brother, Ustadz Mohiden, belonged to the MILF’s religious committee. Mohiden disappeared in 2004 after government agents seized him, Kabalu said.

“He (Usman) was not a member (of the MILF) but he trained many MILF members in bomb-making,” said Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command.

On Most-Wanted List

Two military intelligence officers in northwestern Pakistan said Usman was believed killed on Jan. 14 on the border of Pakistan’s South and North Waziristan tribal regions. Another 11 militants were also killed in the strike on an extremist compound.

The US State Department’s list of most-wanted terrorists identifies Usman as a bomb-making expert with links to the Abu Sayyaf bandit group and the Southeast Asian Jemaah Islamiyah network.

The State Department has put a bounty of $1 million for information leading to Usman’s conviction, and says he is believed responsible for bombings in the southern Philippines in 2006 and 2007 that killed 15 people.

Home to Terrorists

Waziristan and other parts of Pakistan’s border region have long been home to militants from all over the world, primarily Arabs and central Asians.

Up to several hundred Filipino and other Southeast Asian militants traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s and ’90s to fight the Soviets and attend al-Qaida-run camps, but they are no longer believed to be in the region in significant numbers.

The apparent presence of Usman in Waziristan may raise fresh questions as to links between al-Qaida in Pakistan and extremists in Southeast Asia, which has seen several bloody bombings and failed terror plots since 2000. Many were carried out by extremists who had returned from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Pakistani officials cited extremist informers as the source of the information on Usman’s death—which could not be independently confirmed. One of them said Usman had been in Waziristan for one year after arriving from Afghanistan.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the record.

Pakistani government officials rarely confirm the identities of those killed in US attacks.

Unmanned Planes

Islamabad publicly complains about the US missile strikes because admitting to cooperating with the United States would be politically damaging, but it is believed to provide intelligence for many of them.

US officials, also, do not often talk about the missile strikes or their targets, but they have in the past confirmed the deaths of several mid- and high-level al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.

Most of the missiles are fired from unmanned drone aircraft launched from Afghanistan.

Asked about the drone program during an interview with local Express TV, visiting US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said: “I’m not going to discuss operations but I will say this: These unmanned aerial vehicles have been extremely useful to us, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.”

Shadow Aircraft

Gates said he was expanding the program by buying more of the aircraft. He also said the United States was considering ways to share intelligence with the Pakistani military, including possibly giving it US-made drones for intelligence and reconnaissance purposes.

U.S. officials said Gates was referring to a proposed deal for 12 unarmed Shadow aircraft.

With reports from AP; Jocelyn R. Uy, in Manila; and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao

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Deputy Says Bin Laden Truce Offers Still Valid

August 6, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Maamoun Youssef (AP)

CAIRO—Osama bin-Laden’s deputy said in a video message released Monday that the al-Qaida leader’s offers of a truce with the U.S. and Europe remained on the table, though he ridiculed President Barack Obama as “the new face of the same old crimes.”

In a video posted on an Islamic militant Web site, al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, scorned the American president over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nonetheless, al-Zawahri said “fair” truces offered by bin-Laden were still valid.

In 2004, bin-laden offered a truce to European countries that do not attack Muslims. Two years later, he offered the American people a “long-term truce” without specifying the conditions, though in that same audio recording he also warned that his fighters were preparing new attacks in the United States.

“These offers were dealt with impolitely but are still valid, and the offer is fair,” al-Zawahri said. “But they (Americans) want a relationship with us based on suppression.”

“Obama is like a wolf whose fangs tear your flesh and whose paws slit your face and then he calls on you to talk about peace,” he said.

Al-Zawahri has been critical of Obama since his election, even releasing a message that referred to him as a “house negro,” a slur for a black subservient to whites.

In the message released Monday by al-Qaida’s media operation, Al-Sahab, al-Zawahri said Obama is seeking to mislead the Muslim world with calls for better ties and was doing so because wrath from the Muslim world had inflicted catastrophes upon America.

“We are not idiots to accept meaningless flexible words. Obama is the new face with the same old crimes,” he said.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Monday that the United States believes it has “turned a tide” in the struggle against extremists. He spoke of success in Afghanistan, “difficult as it is,” and “meaningful steps” by the Pakistani government against al-Qaida and others.

“This is not a struggle that al-Qaida is destined to win,” Crowley said. “As to a truce, I have no further comment.”

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