Turkish authorities arrest ex-Gitmo detainee in raids against al Qaeda cells

Turkish counterterrorism forces reportedly arrested Ibrahim Sen, a former Guantanamo detainee, during raids against suspected al Qaeda members in six different provinces on Jan. 14.

Press reports identify Sen as a senior al Qaeda member and even al Qaeda’s “deputy leader” in the Middle East. The latter description is most likely an exaggeration, but according to multiple sources Sen was allegedly involved in an al Qaeda facilitation network.

According to Hürriyet, Sen and the other detained suspects have been accused of sending jihadists “to fight in Syria,” facilitating the travel of al Qaeda members coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan, “collecting money to help al Qaeda,” and “providing and distributing aid and weapons to be used in attacks in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

This is the third time that Sen has been detained because of his suspected ties to al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.

Sen was originally detained after fleeing Afghanistan for Pakistan in December 2001. He was transferred to American custody and then, beginning on Feb. 15, 2002, held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

According to a leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment authored several months later, on Sept. 27, 2002, US officials held Sen because his “travel profile matched that of a terrorist recruit.”

The leaked file shows, however, that US military and intelligence officials failed to collect any additional evidence tying Sen to terrorism. JTF-GTMO concluded that Sen was “not affiliated with al Qaeda” and was not a Taliban leader. Military officials also found that he had no valuable intelligence to share and did “not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” They recommended that Sen “be considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

On Nov. 18, 2003, Sen was transferred back Turkish custody.

Just over four years later, in January 2008, Sen was arrested by Turkish authorities and accused of leading an al Qaeda cell.

A report on Guantanamo recidivism released by the Department of Defense notes that Sen was indicted in June 2008 and accused of being the “leader of al Qaeda cells in Van,” Turkey. “In addition,” the DoD file reads, “Sen also recruited and trained new members, provided illegal weapons to the group, and facilitated the movement of jihadists.”

According to Today’s Zaman, Sen was sentenced to several years in prison stemming from the 2008 charges, but the case was still under appeal when he was arrested earlier this month.

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

Tags: , , , , , ,


  • Michael D Baudry says:

    I was NEVER in favor of Gitmo. The prisoners should have been dealt with on the battleground. The money spent and the “info” obtained has not be worth the efforts on looking “humane” to the world.
    I’m tried of playing by the “rules” while the enemy has no rules.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    This is a surprise – I would have thought the Turkish authorities would have given him a first class ticket to the border and helped him with cash, weapons and food for him to fight against Assad in Syria.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    There’s a story in Turkey, LWJ. What is it? The government bust this guy. Last week, I believe it was, the government raided an al qaeda front organization and captured several of the terror groups operatives. But the government then allows trucks laden with weapons and other supplies to continue to Syria after they were stopped by local authorities. This has happened on two occasions, recently. The government refers to the contents of the trucks as “state secrets.” So, what’s going on? (I’m channeling Marvin.)

  • EDDIED. says:

    I agree with you Michael D. Baudry. Even a clearer picture now.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram