A former Guantanamo detainee named Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane has reportedly been killed while fighting in Syria. The Copenhagen Post and other Danish media outlets have cited multiple sources indicating that Abderrahmane was killed earlier this month, but the Danish intelligence agency (PET) has not yet confirmed or denied these reports.
Abderrahmane, who was born to a Danish mother and an Algerian father, was detained while fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001 and transferred to the Guantanamo detention facility, where he was held until early 2004.
According to a leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment dated Dec. 6, 2003, US officials deemed Abderrahmane a “high” risk “threat to the US, its interests, or its allies.”
JTF-GTMO also recommended that Abderrahmane be retained in the Defense Department’s custody. However, less than three months later, on Feb. 24, 2004, he was transferred to his home country of Denmark.
The Facebook page for a group named Islamisk Budskab in Denmark announced Abderrahmane’s martyrdom earlier this week. The group, which has al Qaeda in Iraq’s flag on the header of its Facebook page, said that Danes should be “proud” of Abderrahmane because he finally achieved his goal.
The group wrote that Abderrahmane “was a man who could not stand to see Muslims suppressed, so a few months ago he traveled to Syria to once again perform Jihad and do his duty to fight Allah’s enemies.” Islamisk Budskab also set up a bank account for donations to support Abderrahmane’s wife and two daughters.
Controversial remarks after transfer from Cuba
After his transfer from Guantanamo, Abderrahmane made a number of controversial comments to the press. American officials had him sign an agreement that he would not wage jihad against the US or its allies. Such agreements were standard at Guantanamo, according to senior intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal.
But after he left Guantanamo in 2004, Abderrahmane announced that the agreement was the equivalent of “toilet paper.” Citing Abderrahmane’s appearance on Danish television, BBC News reported that the ex-Gitmo detainee promised to “try to find a way to Chechnya.”
“I am going to Chechnya and fight for the Muslims,” Abderrahmane swore. “The Muslims are oppressed in Chechnya and the Russians are carrying out terror against them.”
Abderrahmane also said that Danish officials may be legitimate targets for terrorist attacks given their support of the Iraq War.
Despite his controversial remarks, Abderrahmane was given a job at the postal service. He was “convicted of stealing credit cards” while working as a postman in 2007, according to The Copenhagen Post.
“GSPC member and al Qaeda sympathizer”
The leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment describes Abderrahmane as a well-connected member of the GSPC (or Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), a jihadist group that maintained significant ties to al Qaeda before formally merging with bin Laden’s operation and renaming itself al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2007.
JTF-GTMO found that Abderrahmane “was recruited to be a courier” for the GSPC, and “transported equipment, money and false documents between the United Kingdom (UK), Algeria, Germany, Spain, Mali, and Denmark.”
JTF-GTMO further alleged that Abderrahmane “was involved with the highest leadership of the GSPC while conducting his courier duties.”
Several well-known al Qaeda-linked jihadists are listed as Abderrahmane’s associates in the JTF-GTMO file.
One of them is Abu Hamza, the former imam of the Finsbury Mosque in London who was arrested by British authorities in 2004 and extradited to the US in October 2012 to stand trial on terrorism charges. Abu Hamza has well-known ties to al Qaeda. JTF-GTMO alleged that he was a “close associate” of Abderrahmane.
A second jihadist listed in the file is Jaffar al Jazeeri, an al Qaeda facilitator who greeted Abderrahmane in Afghanistan in August 2001. Abderrahmane was just beginning to cement his ties to al Qaeda in Afghanistan when the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred, according to JTF-GTMO.
And a third jihadist listed in the file is Bensayah Belkacem, the leader of the so-called “Algerian Six.” Belkacem and five others were initially suspected of plotting an attack on a US Embassy and other targets in late 2001, but were acquitted by a Bosnian court of the charges.
American officials detained the six and transferred them to Guantanamo in 2002. Five of the six ultimately had their habeas corpus petitions granted by a DC District Court judge and were transferred. Belkacem had his petition denied and he remains at Guantanamo. He is one of the 55 detainees currently held at Guantanamo who has been approved for transfer by the Obama administration.
Belkacem is described in the leaked threat assessment for Abderrahmane as an “al Qaeda contact” and Osama bin Laden’s “representative in the Balkans.”
Abderrahmane had “connections” to Belkacem, JTF-GTMO alleged, but the substance of these ties was not specified.
In addition, the JTF-GTMO file reads: “[Abderrahmane] is also associated with many GSPC members that are also associated with the Al Qaeda Zarqawi network.” This last bit of intelligence is especially intriguing as it is known that members of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have played an instrumental role in setting up the Al Nusrah Front in Syria. Jihadists who fought alongside deceased AQI emir Abu Musab al Zarqawi have taken on leadership roles within Al Nusrah.
If these latest reports concerning Abderrahmane’s fate are accurate, then it is likely he died fighting for Al Nusrah or one of the other al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, such as the Muhajireen Brigade, which includes leaders and fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate. His desire for ‘martyrdom’ was, therefore, finally granted.