My USA Today Column on Gitmo Connection to Northwest Airlines

Posted on December 28, 2009

The plot to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas Day was, according to multiple news accounts, organized and launched by al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen. ABC News has reported that the Nigerian man who attempted to blow up a plane over Detroit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, spent a month at an al-Qaeda compound north of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, where he completed training alongside a Saudi al-Qaeda bomb-maker.

Little noted is the fact that the second in command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the group that reportedly trained and deployed Abdulmutallab for his mission to attack the American homeland is a released Guantanamo detainee: Said Ali al-Shihri.While al-Shihri's specific role has not been determined, it is increasingly clear that the terrorist network he helps lead was behind the attempted Detroit attack.

Known to Guantanamo officials as Detainee No. 372, al-Shihri was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in December 2001. He denied being a terrorist and claimed to have traveled to Afghanistan two weeks after the 9/11 attacks to deliver money for the Red Crescent. At Guantanamo, he told officials that he had never even heard of al-Qaeda until he arrived in Guantanamo, and declared that "Usama bin Laden had no business representing Islam." He promised that if released he would return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reunite with his family and work in their used furniture store.

 

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