President Obama is planning to transfer at least 22 additional Guantanamo Bay detainees out of the military detention center before he leaves office later this month, DailyMail.com has learned.
The group being released will be drawn from those held at Guantanamo – who include an accused senior al Qaeda bomb-maker, the terror group’s top financial manager, and two intended 9/11 hijackers, who have all been held in the Cuba-based U.S. detention facility for more than a decade.
According to a military source briefed on the process, 22 detainees are being prepared for transfer out of the camp, also known as Gitmo, before January 20.
Although the White House has not specified which inmates will be transferred out – or which foreign countries have agreed to accept them – it has indicated that this will be a priority for Obama in his final days in office.
‘I can’t speak to any individual notifications that have been made to Congress or give you a specific preview about upcoming transfers,’ said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
‘I think I would expect at this point additional transfers to be announced before January 20th.’
Obama will likely focus on moving the 23 detainees who have been ‘cleared for transfer’ – a group that includes the alleged head of al Qaeda’s bomb-manufacturing operation in eastern Afghanistan, the head of al Qaeda’s Tunisian faction in Afghanistan, and senior weapons trainers.
Those held in Guantanamo in recent years have been dubbed ‘the worst of the worst’ by military and intelligence officials.
But the move would come close to fulfilling Obama’s campaign promise from nearly a decade ago to close the U.S. military detention center located at the base in Cuba.
But it is vehemently opposed by Republicans and the incoming Trump administration. The president-elect has already warned against any transfers at all, meaning the 22 planned moves will be another source of tension in the transition.
Fifty-nine enemy combatants in total still remain at Guantanamo, including terror ‘mastermind’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, two of the ’20th hijackers’ for the 9/11 attacks, and the strategists behind the USS Cole bombing of 2000.
The group includes al Qaeda henchmen from around the world who are trained in lethal military tactics – ranging from sniper assassins and rocket-propelled grenade operators, to explosives and chemical weapons experts.
The Guantanamo Bay detention center has come under significant criticism due to the indefinite detention of some prisoners, many of whom are held without official charges. Obama has promised since his 2008 campaign to shut down the prison.
Although US military officials have issued reports explaining the reasons for continued detentions, many of the accusations are based on claims from other captives or from intelligence that cannot be verified in court.
Supporters of the prison say it is necessary to keep it open due to the national security threat posed by the detainees and the difficulty of compiling a traditional legal case against battlefield terrorists.
President-elect Trump pushed back on Obama’s plan to release additional detainees this week, calling it ‘dangerous.’
‘There should be no further releases from Gitmo,’ wrote Trump on Twitter this week. ‘These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.’
Senate Republicans have also expressed their opposition to Obama’s move.
Senator Tom Cotton told DailyMail.com that he will work with Trump to ensure that Guantanamo Bay remains open.
‘Guantanamo is a first-rate, humane facility for the long-term detention and interrogation of hardened terrorists,’ said Cotton. ‘I look forward to working with President Trump to ensuring it remains filled with senior al Qaeda and ISIL [ISIS] terrorists.’
The remaining 59 Guantanamo prisoners include 17 ‘high-value’ detainees, seven of whom are currently facing military charges, according to the New York Times.
Three others have already been convicted of war crimes, and an additional 26 are being detained indefinitely and are not recommended for transfer.
Twenty three others have been ‘recommended for transfer’ to foreign countries under certain security conditions, such as the detainees attending a rehabilitation program. But the requirements are left relatively vague, and are ultimately up to the foreign government to enforce.
According to the Department of Justice guidelines, inmates can only be considered for continued detention at Guantanamo Bay if they meet three criteria: their continued detention is deemed ‘lawful,’ they are unable to be prosecuted in a court, and they pose a security threat that ‘cannot be sufficiently mitigated through feasible and appropriate security measures.’
Prisoners who are not eligible for continued detention are recommended for transfer.
The list of ‘recommended for transfer’ prisoners includes a number of top al Qaeda operatives and commanders.
One of these detainees, Mohammed al Ansi, has spent 15 years in Gitmo.
US military officials claim he ‘received specialized close combat training for his role as a suicide operative in an aborted component of the 11 September 2001 al-Qaida attacks.’
The attack, which was later cancelled by al Qaeda because of difficulties with coordinating timing, was supposed to include the hijacking of a plane in Southeast Asia with the intent of crashing it into a US military base.
One of the other recommended transfers, Bostan Karim, is accused of running al Qaeda’s improvised explosive devices (IED) operations in Khowst, Afghanistan, which targeted US soldiers.
Some of the recommended transfers have also vowed to return to jihad if they are ever released, according to reports from US military officials. They have also threatened to assassinate the U.S. president, kill American citizens, and attack other world leaders who are allied with the West.
Muieen Abdal Sattar, an accused al Qaeda member who fought in Tora Bora, has been at Guantanamo for 14 years and 11 months. While there he has ‘incited mass disturbances, assaulted and threatened to kill [Gitmo] personnel and made motivational speeches to ‘fight against infidels’ and to kill all Americans to include men, women, children, and babies,’ according to US military officials.
Officials claimed he has also issued several ‘fatwas’ encouraging other detainees to engage in hunger strikes and suicide attempts, and once threatened to cut off a guard’s head.
Others have vowed to ‘martyr’ themselves if released, and even while in Guantanamo, according to official military reports. Accused al Qaeda member Mohammed Bawazir reportedly agreed to be ‘a voluntary suicide operative’ in a suicide attack inside Gitmo, planned with two other detainees.
It is unclear where the detainees will be transferred. Obama has previously transferred ‘recommended’ Gitmo detainees to countries that agree to accept them, sending nine prisoners to Saudi Arabia last spring and another to Italy in July.
Some released detainees have gone back into terrorism. Four of the senior leaders in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are former Guantanamo Bay detainees that were transferred to Saudi Arabia or Sudan.
Over half of the currently ‘recommended’ detainees are from Yemen, a country where the Department of Defense has tried to avoid transferring Gitmo prisoners due to the recent resurgence in terror activity.
WHO’S WHO IN GITMO – AND WHO IS CLEARED FOR RELEASE
The 59 remaining Guantanamo detainees are from around the world and include men identified as hugely dangerous.
Many were personal associates of Osama bin Laden and others were inspired by his message to plot their own terror atrocities.
Here we detail who they are – and which ones the government believes should be transferred, a move which President Obama is planning before 20 January. In each case ‘detained since’ refers to when they entered Guantanamo, not when they first entered custody of the U.S. or an ally.
High value inmates – including 9/11 plotters
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. 52. The ultimate al Qaeda mastermind in U.S. custody, Mohammed – who was born in either Pakistan or Kuwait – led its propaganda arm at bin Laden’s right hand. He presented the first version of 9/11 to bin laden and claimed to have beheaded Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist. He was also implicated in failed attacks, including the shoe-bomb carried by Richard Reid onto a U.S.-bound plane, and its chemical weapons efforts. Detained in Guantanamo since 2006.
Waleed bin Attash. Around 40. From a family of radicals deported em masse from Yemen to Saudi when he was a child, he is missing a leg from a 1997 Afghan battle which claimed his brother’s life. Said to have co-ordinated the 1997 embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He masterminded the USS Cole attack in Aden, Yemen, in 2000, and was one of bin Laden’s most trusted aides. Other plots he was involved in include an attack on London’s Heathrow Airport which resulted in it being guarded by tanks. Detained since 2006.
Ramzi bin al Shibh. 44. Once Mohamed Atta’s roommate and originally supposed to be one of the 9/11 pilots, the Yemeni was turned down for a visa and instead became a coordinator – even giving Atta the date for the atrocities. He was one of the FBI’s most wanted until his capture in 2002 in a gun battle in Pakistan. Trial on murder charges by military commission has still to happen, despite charges being brought in 2008. Detained since 2006.
Mustafa al Hawsawi. 48. Al Qaeda’s accountant, the Saudi was captured with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He was charged in 2009 with the 2,973 murders on 9/11 because of his alleged role in helping the hijackers, including coordinating bringing the ‘muscle’ into the U.S. with Mohamed Atta, the ringleader. Detained in Guantanamo first in 2003, then since 2006.
The terrorists who ‘aided 9/11 slaughter’
Brothers of terror: Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani and Mohammed Ghulam Rabbani helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed facilitate travel for the 9/11 hijackers.
Mohammed al Qahtani. Around 38. Saudi was a ’20th hijacker’ – who almost got into the country. He was stopped at Orlando International when he contradicted himself to immigration screeners who thought he was trying become an illegal immigrant. Headed to Afghanistan where he was captured in the battle of Tora Bora – but claimed he was there simply because of his interest in falconry. For ten months the CIA had no idea who he had until his fingerprints were checked – and it turned out Mohamed Atta was outside waiting to pick him up. Detained since 2002.
Ammar al Baluchi. 39. Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew, he helped his uncle fund and coordinate the tickets and accommodation for the 9/11 hijackers and was a courier between the mastermind and other al Qaeda bigs. Detained since 2006.
Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani. Around 48. Pakistani who helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with the logistics of getting the hijackers into the U.S. Detained since 2004.
Mohammed Ghulam Rabbani. Around 47. Brother of Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani, he was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s personal driver and worked as a ‘travel facilitator’ for al Qaeda as well as providing ‘logistical support’ for bin Laden’s command center in Tora Bora. Detained since 2004.
The men who guarded Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden’s bodymen: Yemenis Mohammed al Ansi, Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, Muaz al Alwai and Hassan bin Attash were all at the terror chief’s side
CLEARED TO GO:
Mohammed al Ansi. About 42. A bin Laden bodyguard from Yemen who also trained to be a suicide plane attacker in south-east Asia in a plot supposed to happen on 9/11. Detained since 2002.
Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman. About 38. Yemeni who was bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and took part in weapons training and fighting in Afghanistan, Detained at Guantanamo since 2002.
Muaz al Alawi. About 40. Another Yemeni who was a frontline fighter for the Taliban having pick up an AK-47 at the age of eight, he also ran a guesthouse in Kandahar for al Qaeda fanatics. Detained since 2002.
Mohammed Ghanim. About 42. Veteran Yemeni extremist who had fought in Bosnia in the 1990s, been jailed in Saudi Arabia for a plot to smuggle missiles, then guarded bin Laden. He told interrogators he knew about attacks ‘bigger than 9/11’. Detained since 2002.
Zohair al Shorabi. 39 or 40. Another Yemeni guard to the al Qaeda mastermind who ran the Kandahar guesthouse for fanatics with al Alwai. Detained since 2002.
Sanad al Kazimi. 46. One time special-forces officer in his native Yemen who was ‘honored’ to guard bin Laden and knew about al Qaeda’s chemical and nuclear weapons research – and encouraged another detainee to become a suicide bomber when released. Detained since 2004.
Hassan bin Attash. Around 32. Just 12 when he swore loyalty to terror chief, the Saudi Arabian admitted to advance knowledge of plots. His brother Waleed is also in Guantanamo. Detained since 2002.
Muhammad Rahim al Afghani. Age unknown. Said to have been ‘special aide’ to bin Laden before 2002, he was captured in Lahore, Pakistan in 2007. He may also have been one of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s drivers. Set up a Match.com account while in Guantanamo saying he was ‘detained but ready to mingle’. Detained since 2008.
Al Qaeda masterminds who bin Laden trusted
CLEARED TO GO: Ridah al Yazidi. 51. ‘Emir’ of al Qaeda’s ‘Tunisian faction’ in Afghanistan who fought in combat and whose commitment to jihad went back to the 1990s, when he was a wanted terrorist. Detained since 2002.
CLEARED TO GO: Yasin Ismail. 38. Commanded al Qaeda forces in Bagram, north of Kabul and the notorious caves of Tora Bora, where bin Laden hid in late 2001. Yemeni-born terror group member is said to have threatened and assaulted guards and was assessed as too dangerous to be freed. Detained since
CLEARED TO GO: Haji Wali Mohammed. 50. Al Qaeda’s ‘financial manager’, he was an Afghan refugee in Pakistan who became rich as a currency dealer, then turned to drug trafficking to make more cash. U.S. intelligence says he sent money to fund a string of bin Laden’s plans, including attacks in 1998 on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Detained since 2002.
Ali Hamza al Bahlul. 47. Bin Laden’s PR director and speechwriter who even set up a satellite receiver so the terror chief could listen to radio coverage of 9/11. One of the few convicted in Guantanamo, the Yemeni was found guilty of series of charges in 2008 by a jury of mine military officers, with one upheld on appeal – criminal conspiracy. Detained since 2002.
Abdu Ali Sharqawi. 42. Part of bin Laden’s inner circle, he would go to the terror chief’s weekly strategy meetings and accompany him on hikes in the Afghan mountains near bin Laden’s lair. The Yemeni commanded men and money for the terror chief. Detained since 2004.
Men with ‘American blood on their hands’
CLEARED TO GO. Mustafa al Shamyri. 38. Initially said to be member of the Yemeni cell responsible for the USS Cole attack in 2000, which claimed 17 Navy sailors’ lives. ‘Detainee is a veteran jihadist who participated in hostilities in the 1994 Yemeni civil war and in the Bosnian Jihad in the mid-1990s’, official documents say. But in 2015, it was concluded there was mistaken identity – and he was a much more low-level foot soldier. Detained since 2002.
Salem Ahmed Hadi. 40. The Yemeni had been a sub-commander in bin Laden’s ’55th Arab Brigade’, his handpicked fighting force, when he was captured in autumn 2001 as the Taliban and al Qaeda lost in Afghanistan. Held in prison in Mazar-i-Sharif he and hundreds of others took part in a rising in late November in which CIA special operative Johnny ‘Mike’ Spann was killed – the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan. Detained since 2002.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. 51. Senior al Qaeda operational coordinator who worked directly under bin Laden. Linked to up to ‘a dozen plots to attack US and western interests’ – including the USS Cole bombing in Yemen, where he was born, although he is a Saudi citizen. Was waterboarded and is now charged with war crimes. Detained since 2006.
Abu Zubaydah. 45. The Palestinian was a senior al Qaeda member involved in numerous terror plots, including the USS Cole bombing and a plan to attack US power grids. Ran a major training camp. Lost an eye while detained in CIA secret prisons. Was waterboarded. Detained since: 2006.
Al Qaeda bigs who did bin Laden’s bidding
Chiefs: Abu Faraj al Libi was one of al Qaeda’s earliest members and its operations chief, while Abd al Hadi al Iraqi used his expertise as an Iraqi major at Tora Bora, and Riduan Isamuddin aka Hambali wanted to be caliph of a fundamentalist south-east Asia
CLEARED TO GO: Abdul Latif Nasir. 51. An associate of bin Laden since 1993, the Moroccan was his top explosives expert in Afghanistan and an instructor at al Qaeda’s training camps. He commanded bin Laden’s troops on the front line at Tora Bora as the mastermind of 9/11 fled on horseback to safety. Detained since 2002.
Abdulsalam al Hela. 48. A Yemeni money man who moved cash and forged documents for al Qaeda, he had been involved in it for much of the 1990s. Officials believe he had prior knowledge of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the USS Cole attack in Aden in 2000 and possibly even 9/11. Detained since 2004.
Haroon Gul al Afghani. 37 or 38. Al Afghani helped bin Laden flee Tora Boro in 2001 and went on to a long career causing havoc in Afghanistan. He was a courier for al Libi, helping move weapons and fighters to attack U.S. and allied forces in the country. Thought to also be a maker of the IEDs used to deadly effect against Americans in Afghanistan. Detained since 2007.
Abu Faraj al Libi. 46 or 47. The ‘operational chief’ of al Qaeda – he had joined in 1990, making him one of its earliest members – he managed its operations after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s capture in 2002 – particularly its attacks on U.S. forces and their allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Communicated with others about plot after plot and was the main conduit for communications to bin Laden as the al Qaeda leader hid. Detained since 2006.
Abd al Hadi al Iraqi. 56. The most senior commissioned military officer in Guantanamo, he was in Saddam Hussein’s army in the Iran-Iraq war as an NCO, eventually became a major. At some point he went to Afghanistan, probably when the Soviet Union was occupying it. He stayed and became one of bin Laden’s top deputies, and after the Taliban’s defeat in 2001, he commanded insurgent attacks on Americans. Bin Laden put him in charge of al Qaeda activities in Iraq, making him one of the world’s most wanted men. There is dispute over his real name – al Iraqi is a nomme de guerre which simply means the Iraqi. Detained since 2007.
Riduan Isamuddin aka Hambali. 52. Once called the Osama bin Laden of south-east Asia, the Indonesian wanted to create a Muslim calpihate across much of it, with himself as the caliph. He oversaw the Bali nightclub bombing which killed 202 people, the worst attack of his Jemaah Islamiyah terror group. It was also behind a wave of church bombings in Indonesia in 2000, while he met two 9/11 hijackers at an al Qaeda summit in Malaysia that year. He was captured in Thailand with arms and explosives after years on the run. Detained since 2006.
Prisoners who will ‘kill Americans’ if freed
Ghassan al Sharbi. 42. The Saudi was sent to the U.S. for high school, and graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ, with a degree in electrical engineering. But he left the U.S. in 2000 for Afghanistan – abandoning a wife and child – and became affiliated to al Qaeda. Captured in Pakistan in 2002, he told an interrogations chief who graduated from Fordham University, New York, that it was a ‘third tier school’ and when he was charged with war crimes, told the military commission: ‘I fought the United States… I’m proud of what I did. Detained since 2002.
Saifullah Paracha. 69. The Pakistani-born businessman is a New York Institute of Technology grad. He worked as a travel agent in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and San Francisco and made money in merchandise, real estate and media. But he was close with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – and met bin Laden several times. He even offered to help smuggle explosives into the US and obtain chemical weapons for the terror group. Detained since 2004.
Majid Khan. 36. The Pakistani citizen graduated Owings Mill High School, Cantonsville, Maryland, then went back to Pakistan to find a wife. He returned to the U.S., worked in a government office in Maryland, but was allegedly enlisted in al Qaeda by Khalid Shekih Mohammed in 2002. Mohammed allegedly encouraged him to plot terror attacks in Israel and the U.S. with targets including gas stations and reservoirs. He was captured in Karachi in 2003 along with his brother and other relatives but they were later freed. Detained since 2006.
Fighters on the front lines of terrorism
CLEARED TO GO: Mohammed Bawazir. 35 or 36. The Yemeni fought with bin Laden’s Arab forces in Afghanistan as well as the Taliban itself. Refused to get on a plane early last year to be transferred to another country because he did not want to go somewhere where had no relatives. Detained since 2002.
CLEARED TO GO: Ravil Mingazov. 49. Least likely of the Guantanamo detainees, he was a ballet dancer as a schoolboy in Russia and a Soviet then Russian non-commissioned officer. He left Russia in 2000, feeling persecuted because he was an ethnic Tatar, a Muslim minority. He fell out with one terror group in Uzbekistan who thought he was a KGB spy, while he thought they were not committed enough to jihad. He moved to Afghanistan, trained in poison and sniper tactics for assassinations – but fell asleep during bin Laden’s lengthy speeches, as he spoke no Arabic. Captured in Faisalbad, Pakistan in 2002 at an al Qaeda safe house. Still wanted in Russia. Detained since 2002.
CLEARED TO GO: Abdul Zahir. 44 or 45. Afghan who was a translator for an Arabic-speaking al Qaeda boss, he and two other men were captured in 2002 after chasing down a car with American passengers and throwing a live grenade in it. Detained since 2002.
Mohammed Haidel. 37 or 38. Another Yemeni who had advanced weapons training before he was wounded in fighting in Tora Bora as bin Laden fled. Detained since 2002.
Salman Rabeii. 37. Saudi fought for bin Laden’s Arab forces and was captured by rival Afghans at Tora Bora as the terror chief fled. Has written letters to his family about his ‘own martyrdom.’ Detained since 2002.
Walid Zaid. 38. Possible al Qaeda money courier before 9/11, he was at a training camp in Afghanistan when they happened. He was wounded at Tora Bora as he manned a fighting position. Detained since 2002.
Ghaleb al Bihani. Around 37. Yemeni who fought with bin Laden’s so-called 55th Arab Brigade in Afghanistan, where he had weapons training. Detained since 2002.
Abdullah Al Shabli. 39. The former honey salesman went to Afghanistan from Yemen up to two years before 9/11 and may have received advanced training. Captured as al Qaeda forces fled Tora Bora. Detained since 2002.
The terror plotters ‘caught red-handed’
The Karachi two: Musa’ab al Madhwani and Said Salih Said Nashir, both Yemenis, were found with incriminating plans at a Karachi safe house during a raid.
International links: Malaysian Modh Farik bin Amin and his fellow countryman Mohammed bin Lep; and Somali Ghould Hassan Dourad and Kenyan Mohammed Abdul Malik, illustrate the geographical reach of the terror camp’s inmates
CLEARED TO GO: Sufyian Barhoumi. 43. Algerian-born Barhoumi was recruited to jihad when he lived in London in the 1990s, by Abu Qatada, a Jordanian cleric who was one of al Qaeda’s most notorious preachers of hate. A senior explosives expert and trainer, he was at Abu Zabaydah’s side when he was captured, at a safe house in Faisalalbad, Pakistan, where they were hatching more terror plots. Detained since 2002.
Abdelrazak Ali. 46. A close associate of Abu Zabaydah, he was seized in a raid on a house in Faisalalbad in Pakistan which led to the mastermind’s capture. Detained since 2002.
Musa’ab al Madhwani. 38. The Yemeni citizen had been trained in using explosives – and when he was captured by Pakistani security forces at an al Qaeda safe house in Karachi he had a laptop with data that could be used to help hijack planes. Detained since 2002.
Said Salih Said Nashir. About 43. Captured with his fellow Yemeni Madhwani in Karachi in 2002. Among the cache of documents were a martyrdom will and plans to attack hotels in the city. Detained since 2002.
Hail Aziz Ahmed al Maythali. 39. Another Yemeni arrested in Karachi in the safe house where they were plotting terror. He may have also guarded bin Laden before 9/11. Detained since 2002.
Modh Farik bin Amin. 41. Malaysian who was part of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s plot for even more hijackings on the West Coast after 9//1. He had trained in terror in Afghanistan, personally sworn allegiance to bin Laden, and cased targets in Thailand and Cambodia for targeting. Detained since 2006.
Mohammed bin Lep. 40. Malaysian fanatic was an aide to another al Qaeda big – Hambali. Among other plots he was involved in was an attack on a Marriott in Jakarta which killed 12. Detained since 2006.
Gouled Hassan Dourad. 42. Dourad, a Somali, was plotting to attack the U.S. base and nearby hotels and restaurants used by Westerners in Dijibouti, in the Horn of Africa, when he was caught. Detained since 2006.
Mohammed Abdul Malik. 44. The Kenyan member of al Qaeda in East Africa was part of the gang behind the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa which killed three Israeli tourists and 10 Kenyans. Almost simultaneously, two surface-to-air missiles were fired at an Israeli charter flight leaving the nearby airport but did not hit it. Detained since 2007.
Weapons experts who know how to kill