Jabir Jubran al Fayfi. Photo courtesy of the NEFA Foundation.
A former Guantanamo detainee who joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) after graduating from a Saudi rehabilitation program has been arrested in Yemen. Fox News reported Tuesday that Yemeni authorities have detained Jabir Jubran al Fayfi, who was transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia on Dec. 13, 2006.
More than two dozen former Gitmo detainees have graduated from the Saudi rehabilitation program only to return to jihad. [See LWJ report, Saudi Gitmo recidivists.] Eleven of them, including al Fayfi, were added to the Saudi Kingdom’s most wanted list in early 2009. Along with other former detainees, he escaped across the border in a disappearance that was orchestrated by al Qaeda.
An admitted jihadist
Al Fayfi was given the internment serial number (ISN) 188 at Gitmo. During his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT), al Fayfi admitted that he was a jihadist who had traveled to Pakistan, Kashmir, and then Afghanistan to wage jihad. Al Fayfi denied any affiliation with al Qaeda, but US officials found otherwise. And al Fayfi conceded that he had joined the Taliban.
Al Fayfi’s journey to jihad began like that of many other al Qaeda and Taliban members. He was recruited in a Saudi mosque and convinced that by waging jihad he could atone for his past bad behavior. According to declassified files prepared at Gitmo, Al Fayfi struggled with a drug habit until he became convinced of the righteousness of jihad.
He decided to fight in Kashmir first.
During his CSRT, al Fayfi tried to deny that he had been recruited in a Saudi mosque, but his denial reveals that his trip abroad was facilitated by the terror network. “I have not been recruited,” al Fayfi claimed. “I only took an address for Jihad in Kashmir [for a man]. He is one of the Mujahedin. All details are in my file.”
Al Fayfi admitted that he had received light arms training in Kashmir and, according to memos produced at Guantanamo, that he had “joined a unit of approximately nine others and participated in three raids.” Al Fayfi “fought in Kashmir for about four months.”
It is likely that al Fayfi’s time in Kashmir was sponsored by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), a known al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group based in Pakistan. According to one memo produced at Gitmo, al Fayfi “spent time in a [JEM] building in Karachi, Pakistan.” That same memo notes that the JEM has “close ties to Afghan Arabs and the Taliban” and that Osama bin Laden “is suspected of giving funding to the JEM.”
JEM is one of the two primary jihadist organizations operating in Kashmir and was created by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency to fight Indian forces.
After fighting in Kashmir, al Fayfi read another fatwa in a Pakistani newspaper that called on Muslims to support the Taliban in Afghanistan. During his CSRT, al Fayfi conceded that he served the Taliban but tried to downplay his role.
“As for the Taliban,” al Fayfi said, “I went to see them according to the Fatwa, which says if they applied the conditions in the Fatwa, I will go for Jihad with them.”
Fought Northern Alliance in late 2001 and then retreated to the Tora Bora Mountains
US officials found that al Fayfi fought against the Northern Alliance in late 2001. Al Fayfi’s position was “struck eleven times over three days” during the US bombing campaign, according to one declassified memo, but “no casualties were sustained” because the trenches were well-prepared. After the Northern Alliance broke through the Taliban’s lines, senior Taliban commanders ordered a “general withdrawal.” But al Fayfi stayed behind to fight.
“While the majority of Afghan Taliban and approximately five hundred Arab volunteer jihad extremists withdrew,” US intelligence officials noted in one memo, al Fayfi “and a small number of others were directed to remain on the Bagram Front to provide covering fire against the advancing infantry.” Al Fayfi and his fellow fighters were finally forced to retreat by “three advancing Northern Alliance tanks.”
Al Fayfi then retreated to the Tora Bora Mountains along with other al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
During his CSRT, al Fayfi offered an unconvincing explanation for his time in Afghanistan. “It is true I was in the front line but I did not fight because I went to see whether they applied the Fatwa conditions only.” Al Fayfi explained further:
It is obligatory to receive a gun in [the] front line. It is not my choice but I did not use it. I was only observing if the Fatwa applied and not fighting. I was even transferred to the back lines. I was not even able to share the fighting. Actually there was no fighting during my time there.
Although al Fayfi tried to deny that he had fought in Afghanistan, he conceded that he had fled to Tora Bora. He also conceded that he saw Arabs there, but claimed he had no way of telling the difference between al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. This was part of his general denial of any ties to al Qaeda.
US military officials at Gitmo found evidence that al Fayfi was lying about his al Qaeda ties, however. Al Fayfi’s name was found on several documents maintained by al Qaeda that were recovered by the US and its allies. One of the documents is a “handwritten letter that was recovered along with other materials linked to al Qaeda.” The letter “contained a list of Arabs incarcerated in Pakistan and encourages its correspondent to incite the people against the Pakistan Government.” Two other lists that included al Fayfi’s name were recovered during raids on al Qaeda safe houses.
In addition, an unnamed “foreign government service reported” to US officials that al Fayfi “was a member of al Qaeda.”
The Gitmo files note that al Fayfi claimed he wanted to return to Saudi Arabia where he could be with his family and resume his job as a taxi driver. Al Fayfi told US authorities that he was finished with jihad.
That was obviously a lie. Instead, al Fayfi joined other former Gitmo detainees in Yemen.