Libya frees ex-Gitmo detainee

The Libyan government has released dozens of Islamist extremists and terrorists in recent days as part of an effort to reconcile with its opposition. The initiative is being led by Saif al Islam Qaddafi, the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Saif Qaddafi is battling other forces in Libya to one day succeed his father as ruler. And Saif’s reconciliation with terrorists who once opposed his father’s regime is part of a gambit to build his base of power.

Among the Islamists released is Sofiane Ibrahim Gammu, a former Gitmo detainee who was transferred to Libya on Sept. 28, 2007, and spent the next three years in a Libyan prison. Libyan officials say Gammu was once a driver for Osama bin Laden. But Gammu denied this allegation to Reuters: “I am not bin Laden’s driver. It’s a misunderstanding.”

Declassified memos prepared at Guantanamo tell a different story. The memos allege that Gammu, who was known as Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda Bin Qumu (internment serial number 557) during his time in detention, was a longtime jihadist who served both the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Gammu served in the Libyan Army from 1979 until 1990, but his service was marred with legal troubles. According to memos produced at Guantanamo, Gammu was “arrested and jailed multiple times for drug and alcohol offenses, going absent without leave and attempted rape.” He “was sentenced to four years in prison for drug trafficking,” but escaped prison and “fled to Sudan in 1992,” at which point he allegedly started serving al Qaeda.

The Gitmo files note that Gammu “worked as a truck driver in Sudan for the Wadi al Aqiq Company,” which was “owned by Osama bin Laden.” When the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al Qaeda affiliate that has targeted Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, was formed in the mid 1990s, Gammu joined the group and was allegedly assigned to its military committee. In 1998, however, Gammu left the LIFG and joined the Taliban in Afghanistan, where he fought against the Northern Alliance.

Gammu continued to work with al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In memos prepared at Guantanamo, US officials alleged that he “received military training at Osama bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan” and his “name and family information” were “listed on a document which contained details of al Qaeda operatives’ families.” The Gitmo files note that the document “is associated with a senior al Qaeda operative.”

US officials at Gitmo also alleged that Gammu “met a senior al Qaeda facilitator between ten and twenty occasions.” One of the camps Gammu attended was the Khalden camp, which was run by Ibn Sheikh al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader who died while in Libyan custody in 2009, and Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda facilitator who is currently detained at Gitmo. The Gitmo files do not specifically say if either of these two al Qaeda leaders met with Gammu, or if he repeatedly met some other “senior al Qaeda facilitator.”

In Aug. 2001, Gammu began working for the al Wafa charity in Kabul. Al Wafa is a known front organization for al Qaeda that is based in Saudi Arabia and was responsible for funneling terrorists, supplies, and cash to and from Afghanistan prior to the September 11 attacks. Al Wafa has been designated a terrorist organization by both the US and the UN. The head of the organization and at least several of its employees were also once detained at Guantanamo.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Gammu allegedly “met with al Qaeda operatives at a guest house in Kabul, Afghanistan to discuss the evacuation of women and children.”

The Gitmo files also include this note: “A foreign government considers the detainee a dangerous man with no qualms about committing terrorist acts. They believe he was one of the extremist commanders of the Afghan Arabs.”

The foreign government in question is not identified, but is quite possibly the Libyan government, as Qaddafi’s regime likely knew Gammu’s history well after his arrest, escape, and time in the service of the LIFG.

Memos produced at Gitmo note that, at some point during his detention, Gammu denied any involvement in terrorist activities and claimed that his work for al Wafa was purely charitable. There is no record of Gammu attending a combatant status review tribunal or administrative review board hearing at Gitmo, so it is not known how or even if he chose to answer all of the other specific allegations levied against him.

Saif Qaddafi is now apparently willing to make peace with this longtime jihadist, who was once considered a “dangerous man.”

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

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