Ex-Gitmo detainee reportedly a suspect in killing of Ugandan prosecutor

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An ex-Guantanamo detainee named Jamal Kiyemba has been arrested as a suspect in the assassination of Joan Kagezi, a senior counterterrorism prosecutor in Uganda. At the time of her death late last month, Kagezi was playing a lead role in the trial of 12 men who are accused of taking part in bombings in the capital of Kampala on July 11, 2010. More than 70 people were killed in the dual suicide attacks, which were carried out by a Shabaab unit named after a deceased al Qaeda operative.

Kiyemba’s arrest was first reported by NTV in Uganda. Several suspects were arrested in an “operation” that “was carried out by the Uganda Police Force with the support of US government personnel,” NTV reported. The news agency also released a short biography for Kiyemba that can be viewed on YouTube.

In a pair of tweets, NTV investigative journalist Solomon Serwanjja reported that the US Embassy in Uganda has confirmed the Americans’ involvement in Kiyemba’s arrest. “The US gov’t supported police operations that led to the arrest of several suspects involved in Joan Kagezi’s murder,” Serwanjja wrote in one tweet earlier today. “We can confirm that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamal Kiyemba was detained in connection with the Joan Kagezi murder,” Serwanjja cited the US Embassy as saying in another.

Kagezi was gunned down on Mar. 30 “after she left her car – in which she was traveling with two of her children on the way home from work – to buy groceries in a Kampala suburb,” the Associated Press (AP) reported. “After shooting her in the head and neck, the gunmen fled on a motorcycle during heavy vehicular traffic, according to local police.”

The US Embassy released a statement the following day, denouncing the terrorists responsible and praising Kagezi as “heroine in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism.”

Detained at Guantanamo for several years

Jamal Kiyemba was first detained sometime after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by Pakistani authorities, who suspected that he was traveling to Afghanistan to wage jihad on behalf of the Taliban and al Qaeda. He was transferred to US custody and detained at Guantanamo until Feb. 7, 2006, when he was transferred to his home country of Uganda.

US officials at Joint Task Force – Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) described Kiyemba as a “medium” threat, as opposed to “low” or “high,” in a leaked threat assessment memo dated Nov. 3, 2004. JTF-GTMO recommended that Kiyemba be transferred “to the control of another country for continued detention.”

Kiyemba β€œis an admitted jihadist who attempted travel to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks,” JTF-GTMO concluded. Kiyemba “is committed to defending Islamic nations against aggression” and he justified waging jihad against “any system like democracy [that] tries to end Islamic law.”

β€œI had no problem engaging the US in combat for purposes of jihad,” JTF-GTMO quoted Kiyemba as saying in the threat assessment.

Kiyemba’s journey to South Asia allegedly began in England, where he “obtained a false student identification card…using the false name Jamal Abdullah, and the country of origin as Kenya.” He received assistance from Jama’at Tablighi (JT), a missionary organization that al Qaeda regularly used as a cover for its operations, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani jihadist group tied to al Qaeda.

While in Peshawar, Kiyemba “received military training in the use of the AK-47…from support members belonging to the” LeT, JTF-GTMO found. He was detained in Peshawar alongside two Sudanese jihadists, both suspected of being al Qaeda operatives, and a Mauritanian described as a “low level jihadist” by JTF-GTMO. The trio were also detained at Guantanamo before being transferred to their respective home countries in 2007 and 2008.

In press reports published after his release from Guantanamo, Kiyemba admitted that he had joined the Taliban in order to fight against American forces. Through his lawyer, Kiyemba also claimed that he was tortured at Guantanamo.

Prior to his reported arrest in Uganda earlier today, Kiyemba was probably best known for being the named party on habeas corpus challenges filed on behalf of Guantanamo detainees.

It is not known what role Kiyemba is suspected of playing in Kagezi’s assassination.

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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4 Comments

  • Scott J. says:

    Another Guantanamo detainee/releasee goes back to terrorism. Bill, I really think an interesting study would be a “Where Are They Now?” of those released from Guantanamo, and publish it here in the LWJ.

  • david5300 says:

    This I understand is another Obama victory?

  • Greg W says:

    As the article points out, it’s not known what role Kiyemba played (if any) in the assassination.

  • shawn harmon says:

    Daviud5300:

    Not sure what you mean as the article states:

    “he was transferred to US custody and detained at Guantanamo until Feb. 7, 2006, when he was transferred to his home country of Uganda.”

    Blame Obama?

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