‘Guantanamo Swede’ reportedly arrested in Pakistan

A former Guantanamo detainee named Mehdi Mohammad Ghezali has reportedly been arrested in Pakistan on terrorism charges. According to the Associated Press:

Mehdi-Muhammed Ghezali was arrested with two other Swedes and nine other foreigners close to the country’s northwestern tribal regions…

The 12 foreigners were arrested Aug. 28 in the town of Dera Ghazi Khan. Police said at the time they had allegedly sneaked in from Iran and were planning to travel to the tribal areas. One was carrying a laptop computer and $10,000.

There is little information available on the allegations that were levied against Ghezali during his time at Gitmo. He was released prior to the commencement of the combatant status review tribunals, so there are no publicly available U.S. government documents concerning Ghezali’s case. He was captured near the Af-Pak border in December 2001, as he reportedly fled the Tora Bora Mountains. The AP reports, “Ghezali reportedly was part of a group of 156 suspected al-Qaida fighters caught while fleeing Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains.”

According to Pakistani authorities, Ghezali was working with al Qaeda once again at the time of his arrest.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.


  • gudmundson says:

    This story is developing in Sweden. The latest news – though unconfirmed – is that also arrested, along with Ghezali, is a young couple who formerly were held for months in Ethiopia suspected of ties with the Islamic Courts in Somalia.
    So you have an ex-Gitmo detainee and two Islamic Courts-supporters in the same car. What are the odds?
    NY Times had a piece on the woman back then:
    The disturbing thing, this time, is not about the usual security concerns about jihadists in Sweden. Our intelligence services knew about these guys, and had their eyes on them.
    The disturbing thing is the ties to mainstream islam. The mother to the for the second time arrested young woman is also chairwoman of The Swedish Muslim Council – one of the largest mainstream Muslim organisations in Sweden. She is, of course, “shocked”.

  • Swede says:

    By way of an expansion on this story, according to Swedish media today Mehdi Ghezali, the “Guantanamo Swede” was arrested together with a 19-year-old Swedish woman and a small child.
    Her name is Safia Benaouda and she became famous in Sweden when she was arrested in Somalia in January 2007 while fleeing from the fighting there between Ethiopian troops and the Islamic Courts Union. Benaouda was in the company of the wife of Daniel Maldonado, an American convert to Islam who later stood trial in Houstan, Texas for terrorist activities in Somalia. Benaouda was released without charge after intensive diplomatic efforts by the Swedish government. The pregnant Banaouda claimed she was on vacation.
    Benaouda’s mother, Helena Benaouda is Chair of the Swedish Islamic Council, an influential organization of moderate muslims in Sweden with high level contacts with the government. This connection is currently not being reported in Swedish newspapers though it is tacitly acknowledged (for example through pixellated photographs where the originals are easily found having been published elsewhere, and through references to the daughter’s experiences in Somalia, though without naming the mother).

  • gudmundson says:

    It is now confirmed by the Swedish Foreign Department that the three swedes arrested are Mehdi Ghezali, Munir Awad and Safia Benaouda (and, also, Awad’s and Benaouda’s two year old baby).
    Ghezali is a former Gitmo detainee. Awad and his girlfriend Benaouda were held in 2007 in Ethiopia, after having fled Somalia when the Ethiopian army had crushed the Islamic courts.
    None of the three have ever been formerly accused in a court for any crime. It seems obvious, though, that they have the misfortune of chosing bad places for their vacations.
    Swedish press states that the mentioned people have been under surveillance, and that the Swedish Secret police (Säkerhetspolisen) have tipped off the colleagues in Pakistan (all according to ‘sources’).
    In Sweden, the story has wider imlications. Safia Benaouda is the daughter of Helena Benaouda, chairwoman of the mainstream muslim organisation Swedish Muslim Council. She has not yet, though, spoken out about the incident.

  • Swede says:

    Swedish Media have published the identity of the third Swedish citizen arrested together with Mehdi Ghezali and Safia Benaouda. His name is Munir Awad, 28. He was previously arrested together with Safia in Somalia in 2007. His explanation for being there during the fighting was that he wanted to see what a “real Islamic country” is like. Earlier this year he was arrested and suspected, among other things, of attempting to recruit suicide bombers in Denmark. He was subsequently released without charge. (Swedish law makes it very difficult to secure convictions in cases concerning support of or preparations for terrorism).

  • Mr T says:

    Hmmm, young unmarried pregant woman who speaks her mind and whose mother is the head of a muslim influence group traveling to a muslim country in the company of her “boyfriend” who ” was not a “muslim” and didn’t recruit muslims in Denmark for suicide.
    This does not add up. Islam does not allow women to travel with their “boyfriends”. Then she did it again to Pakistan. Or were they married by then?
    Why do we continue to give credence to these lies and stories from muslims obviously engaged in nefarious dealings?
    Like those stories of muslims just roaming around the Afghan countryside on vacation , who just happened to stay at the camps where Osama was but they didn’t do any terrorism. Osama just put that antiaircraft missle in the back seat of a car he asked me to drive for him. Right.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram