Former Gitmo Prisoner, Turned al Qaeda Leader

Bush Administration critics have scoffed at claims by the Defense Department that as many as 61 former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield. They may want rethink their skepticism. It's now up to the Obama Administration to evaluate which of the 248 Guantanamo detainees to release—and a video made public today of a former detainee-turned al Qaeda leader makes clear just how difficult it is going to be. The SITE Intelligence Group has posted online a 19-minute video, featuring speeches from four al Qaeda leaders in the Arabian Peninsula. One of the leaders is Guantanamo Prisoner No. 372, who was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and is now deputy commander of a regional group, even though he is a graduate of a Saudi "re-education" program designed to eliminate allegiances to "jihadist" groups. The former detainee, Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri (AKA Saeed Ali-Shahri), went through the Saudi rehabilitation program, but then reappeared in Yemen with al Qaeda. On the video, released today in jihadist forums, he says: "By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for.  And today here we are, O our Sheikh, Allah has blessed us with migration to the land of provision and jihad; the land of Yemen and faith, pledging allegiance to our brother, Abu Baseer Nasr al-Wahayshi, may Allah preserve him." Abu Sufyan then talks about the Gaza offensive, saying Arab rulers are complicit with Israel in the conflict and urging Muslims to support jihad "with their souls and money," the SITE Intelligence group says. Counterterrorism officials believe the former Guantanamo detainee was involved in a deadly bombing at the U.S. embassy in Yemen just last September.

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