Obama's last Gitmo transfers sent to Saudi Arabia, UAE

Obama's last Gitmo transfers sent to Saudi Arabia, UAE
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One of the Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred in President Obama’s last effort to shrink the facility was sent home to Saudi Arabia, and three others were sent to the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said Thursday evening.

Saudi citizen Jabran Said Wazar al Qahtani returned to the kingdom from military prison in Cuba on Thursday night, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Qahtani will be reunited with his family and will be subject to the kingdom’s regulations, including participating in Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program for extremists, according to SPA.

In a letter to Congress on Thursday, Obama revealed that 41 detainees remain at the facility, down from 45 two days ago.

A March military profile described Qahtani, 39, as a “self-radicalized electrical engineer” who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in October 2001 to fight U.S. forces. He received “abbreviated” weapons training in Afghanistan, the profile says, and then was chosen by a senior al Qaeda leader to receive explosive detonator training in Pakistan.

At the camp in Faisalabad, Pakistan, he learned how to construct circuit boards for radio-remote controlled improvised explosive devices, a skill he was supposed to use to teach others how to make bombs to use against U.S. and coalition forces, according to the profile.

He was captured in March 2002 at senior al Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaydah’s safe house in Faisalabad, according to the profile.

A parole-like board known as the Periodic Review Board cleared him for transfer in November. In its written statement, the board said it made the decision in part because of his “credible desire” to participate in Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program. The board also noted his “recent positive change in behavior and mindset” and said any risk he poses can be “adequately mitigated” by the Saudi program.

The three detainees sent to the UAE were identified as Yasin Qasem Muhammad Ismail, a Yemeni; Ravil Mingazov, a Russian; and Haji Wali Mohammed, an Afghan.

Ismail underwent “extensive combat training,” according to a November 2015 military profile. He “probably” fought and led teams of fighters at Bagram and Tora Bora, the profile adds.

He was denied transfer in March, but approved for transfer when the board reviewed his case again in December. The board cited his “greater candor” at the second hearing and his “extensive efforts to take advantage of opportunities in detention to better himself.”

Mingazov served in the Russian military from 1989 to 2000 and resigned over what he characterized a Russia’s treatment of Muslim, according to his March military profile.

He attended several training camps in Afghanistan, where he learned to make explosives, poisons and chemical grenades, according to the profile. He can only speak Russian, meaning he probably didn’t hold any positions of authority, the profile adds.

Mingazov was approved for transfer in July, with the board citing his lack of expressing interest in re-engaging in terrorism and lack of espousing anti-U.S. sentiments.

A March military profile of Mohammed describes him as an Afghan money changer who operated a currency exchange business and conducted financial transactions from the mid-to-late 1990s for senior Taliban officials before he fell out of favor with the group.

The profile says it has been assessed with “moderate confidence” that he conducted financial transactions for Osama bin Laden in 1998 and 1999 through his Taliban ties. He was “probably motivated by financial gain” and “probably has a pragmatic view of the role the Taliban held in Afghanistan,” the profile adds.

“He most likely judged that it was prudent to work with, rather than against, the Taliban government in the 1990s,” the profile says.

He was cleared in September by the board, which cited that his business connections “appear to have ended” and that he “does not appear to have been motivated by extremist ideologies.”