Jordan rearrests ex-Gitmo detainee once deemed a ‘high’ risk

Jordanian authorities have arrested nine members of the Salafi jihadist trend, including a former Guantanamo detainee named Osama Abu Kabir, according to The Jordan Times.

Kabir was first captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo in June 2002. He was detained there until November 2007, when he was transferred to Jordan and released. Kabir is known to have resumed his terrorist activities after his release.

According to the US State Department, Kabir was the leader of a terrorist cell in Jordan that plotted “attacks in Israel in retaliation for the Israeli incursion into Gaza.” The cell was broken up in 2009 when Kabir and his associates were arrested. Kabir was reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison, but for some unknown reason was at large until his recent arrest.

Late last year, Al Jazeera reported on its Arabic website that Kabir was wanted by Jordanian authorities once again. At the time, the Jordanians were cracking down on members of the Salafi jihadist trend. One of the members of the trend arrested in the security sweeps is Raed Hijazi, who served time in prison for his role in planned attacks inside Jordan at the turn of the millennium.

Kabir has also been identified as a member of the Salafi jihadist trend. The specific charges against Kabir have not been made public, but his arrest seems to be tied to Jordan’s concerns about the jihad in Syria.

One of the other eight members of the trend recently arrested has “alleged ties” to the Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.

The leader of the Salafi jihadist trend has also claimed that the arrests are linked to the fight in Syria. “This campaign of arrests is the latest step by the state to intimidate and prevent Jordanians and other Muslims from defending their brothers in Syria,” Mohammed Shalabi (a.k.a. Abu Sayyaf) told The Jordan Times.

Shalabi is well known for his longstanding ties to al Qaeda’s operations in Iraq and Syria. He was previously accused of plotting to attack American targets in Jordan.

A “high” risk

The Long War Journal profiled Kabir in 2010 using declassified files prepared at Guantanamo. [See LWJ report, State Department: Former Gitmo detainee led terror cell in Jordan.]

A subsequently leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment provides additional details.

The JTF-GTMO assessment, dated Aug. 11, 2005, noted that Kabir is “a possible member of al Qaeda” who “decided to go to Afghanistan to fight in the jihad against Coalition forces.” The assessment concluded that he presented a “high” risk, “as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” Despite being deemed a threat, however, JTF-GTMO recommended that Kabir be transferred to the control of another country as long as an acceptable transfer agreement could be reached.

Two years later, on Nov. 2, 2007, he was transferred to Jordan.

Tied to “experienced al Qaeda member”

Kabir traveled from Pakistan to Afghanistan alongside “an experienced al Qaeda member named Muhammad Aslam Bin Khan aka Muhammad Islam Barasi” in November 2001. The pair “fought on the front lines” before retreating to “set up their own ambush.” But they were detained later that same month.

While in custody, according to the JTF-GTMO file, Kabir admitted that he had traveled to Afghanistan to fight the US. He did not hide his intent even when he was interviewed by the press in late 2001.

On Dec. 2, 2001, the Sunday Telegraph (UK) published an article detailing a visit by its reporters to a detention facility in Kabul. Kabir was one of the inmates the Telegraph interviewed. “I hate Americans – in the last 10 years they’ve shown what’s in their hearts towards Islam,” Kabir said during the interview. He went on to justify the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Kabir’s companion in Pakistan and then Afghanistan, Muhammad Aslam Bin Khan, was an especially well-connected operative who had helped plot international terrorist attacks.

Aslam is described in the JTF-GTMO threat assessment as “an explosives expert” and member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an al Qaeda-affiliated group based in Southeast Asia. Aslam had “ties to senior al Qaeda operational coordinator and JI founder, Hambali.” Before being captured in 2003, Hambali had worked closely with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and had sheltered two of the 9/11 hijackers in January 2000, when they attended a key planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After 9/11, Hambali continued to plot attacks in Southeast Asia on behalf of al Qaeda.

The JTF-GTMO file indicates that Aslam was interviewed by the British Secret Intelligence Service after he was captured with Kabir. Aslam said he met Kabir in Pakistan and the duo went to Afghanistan to fight.

Aslam’s terrorist career long predated his trip to Afghanistan in late 2001, however.

In 1996 and 1997, according to JTF-GTMO’s file, Aslam was trained at an al Qaeda camp in the Philippines. “Between the summer of 1998 and his departure in 2001,” Aslam “cased three potential bombing targets in Singapore.” The “potential targets were the US Naval Port Facility in Singapore, the Singapore Water Pipeline, and nightspots frequented by US servicemen.”

Aslam is of Pakistani descent but also a citizen of Singapore, where authorities first learned of his plotting after 9/11. According to a document released by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs, one of Aslam’s fellow Singaporeans told officials that Aslam had bragged about knowing Osama bin Laden and fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The government of Singapore then started closely tracking Aslam’s movements, but in early October 2001 he suddenly departed for Pakistan.

Aslam’s detention inside Afghanistan the following month, alongside Kabir, then triggered a series of arrests in Singapore. The Ministry of Home Affairs says that officials were concerned that the news of Aslam’s arrest would make members of his cell flee the country as well. Twenty-three people were detained in December 2001, and 13 of them were determined to be actively plotting against American interests.

More than a dozen years have passed since Aslam and Kabir made their way into Afghanistan to fight American forces.

In the years that followed his release from Guantanamo, Kabir has continued to seek ways to wage jihad.

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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