Ex-Gitmo detainee plotted against Saudi kingdom


Murtadha Ali Saeed Makram. Photo courtesy of the NEFA Foundation.

In October, the Yemeni government offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Ahmed Abdel Aziz al Jasser, a Saudi national. According to Agence France Presse, Yemen’s interior ministry describes al Jasser, along with one of his accomplices, as “among the most dangerous Al-Qaeda operatives to have committed acts of terrorism and sabotage.”

Saudi authorities have accused al Jasser and other members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) of plotting attacks inside the kingdom in December 2009, when Saudi security forces were battling Houthi insurgents. Asharq Al-Awsat reports that the planned attacks, which apparently were foiled, included “possibly carrying out an assassination or attacking the country’s oil facilities.”

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, one member of al Jasser’s cell is a former Guantanamo detainee named Murtadha Ali Saeed Makram. Following the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, Makram fled to northern Pakistan, where he was captured. He was detained at Guantanamo for several years until he was repatriated to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007.

Makram is one of at least several former Gitmo detainees who are now targeting the Saudi kingdom.

He “hates Americans and all non-believers”

According to declassified memos prepared by US military officials at Guantanamo, Makram answered the call for jihad in 2000. He left his home in Saudi Arabia for Afghanistan, traveling through Yemen and Pakistan on his way. After staying in multiple guesthouses, Makram went to the secondary line, where he was a sentry. Several months later, Makram “went to the front line after the Northern Alliance” launched an attack on Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Bagram.

In late November 2001, Makram retreated to the Tora Bora Mountains where he allegedly “was identified as having fought.” Tora Bora was an al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold at the time. And Makram’s retreat to Tora Bora is consistent with Osama bin Laden’s call for reinforcements there following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Makram’s career in Afghanistan shows how seamlessly the Taliban and al Qaeda cooperate. A Jan. 25, 2006 memo prepared for one of Makram’s administrative review board hearings notes that his unit in Bagram was headed by a Taliban commander. At Tora Bora, however, Makram’s “group came under the authority of an al Qaeda commander.”

Makram eventually fled to Pakistan, where he was captured. Several al Qaeda-created documents recovered by the US and her allies listed Makram as an al Qaeda member. The Jan. 25, 2006 memo cites a “foreign government source” as reporting that “two hundred fifteen individuals were applicants for an unspecified terrorist training camp” and Makram’s name “shows up on this [applicant] list as number 184.”

A list recovered during raids on “suspected al Qaeda safe houses in Karachi, Pakistan” in 2002 included Makram’s “name, alias and nationality.” Then, in 2003, “a chart in Arabic listing the names of captured Mujahadeen was seized from a computer that was associated with a known senior al Qaeda operative.” Makram’s “name, country and telephone number were found on this chart.”

In the declassified memos prepared at Gitmo, US officials alleged that Makram was a committed jihadist. He went to “Afghanistan to fight the jihad as part of his religious duty.” Makram allegedly told US officials that “it did not matter whether the Taliban won or lost the war” because he “fought for the glory of God,” “wanted to be a martyr for the cause,” and “went to the jihad to die.”

Makram was allegedly a problematic detainee at Gitmo. In a memo prepared for his combatant status review tribunal, US officials documented a number of incidents in which he disobeyed or deliberately attempt to provoke security officials. “The most extreme conduct occurred on 12 October 2004 when he grabbed an MP through the ‘beanhole’ in his cell and pulled him towards the door.”

At some point during his time in US custody, Makram claimed he “would never again think of participating in any military conflict.” That wasn’t true. In early 2009, less than a year and a half after he was transferred to Saudi Arabia, Makram was included on the Saudis’ list of 85 most wanted terrorists. At least 10 other former Gitmo detainees were included on the list as well.

That Makram would return to jihad is not surprising. He told officials at Gitmo that “his fate was in the hands of Allah, and not the Americans,” adding that “he hates Americans and all non-believers.”

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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  • Charu says:

    And we released him? Someone needs to be fired/cashiered for this bone-headed decision. If we took the Saudi’s word and released him to them, we need to understand that the Saudis have their “good” Al Qaeda and their “bad” Al Qaeda; just like the Pakistanis and their “good” and “bad” Taliban. Bottom line is that both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are being duplicitous and damaging our interests and our safety.

  • Pablo Schwartz says:

    “Bottom line is that both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are being duplicitous and damaging our interests and our safety.”
    .. the previous poster would seem to have hit the nail on the head. Any notion of a “long war” against terrorism that doesn’t take the Saudis to task is a Joke. Saudi Arabia is home to the 200 year old Wahhabi cult, cousin-in-law to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And the country that is presently marketing its sick Cromwellian perversion of Islam around the world .. has just inked a $60 Billion arms deal with the U.S.?? Perhaps that is their reward for attacking our buildings nine years ago. President Khatami would have helped America deal with the al-Qaeda threat .. but some Canadian twerp wrote that “axis of evil” speech (nice work, Frum). And like any nation that feels threatened, Iran shifted to the right, a desperate move fueled by wounded pride (and a mirror of sorts to 21st century America: “Arms Dealer to the Stars” / I mean, what else do we manufacture these days?).


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