The Obama administration is coming under pressure to explain why it cleared for release a former Guantanamo Bay prison camp inmate who has become a senior Al Qaeda operative since being released from American custody.
Ibrahim al Qosi, a former Gitmo inmate who the Obama administration released to Sudan in 2012 after clearing him as a low-level risk, has recently reemerged as a top leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to congressional leaders.
The Obama administration has released as many as 37 inmates from Guantanamo since 2015 as it pursues an effort to shut the prison down; as many as 17 detainees were freed in January alone. Fewer than 100 inmates remain imprisoned at the facility.
Al Qosi’s appearance in a new series of al Qaeda propaganda videos has prompted backlash on Capitol Hill from lawmakers who accuse the administration of not properly vetting inmates as it rushes to shutter Gitmo.
“The transfer of terror detainee Ibrahim al Qosi from Gitmo to the Sudanese government has resulted in a new frontman for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and reminds us that no facility in the world can detain terrorists as securely as Guantanamo,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) told the Washington Free Beacon on Thursday.
The administration needs to explain why they would transfer al Qosi and two other known terrorists to Sudan, a state sponsor of terror,” Kirk said.
Senior Pentagon officials have admitted to Congress that at least 30 percent of the detainees freed from Gitmo have rejoined terrorist groups.
It is illegal for the Obama administration to transfer any Gitmo detainees into the United States, according to measures included by Kirk and other lawmakers in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. The administration also is barred from constructing any facility on U.S. soil meant to house these inmates.
Ex-Guantanamo detainee Ibrahim al Qosi has become a prominent fixture in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) propaganda since early December, when he first revealed that he is a senior leader in the group. Qosi most recently delivered a two-part critique of the Saudi monarchy, entitled “A Message to Our People in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.”
Qosi begins his nearly 50-minute lecture, which was posted online on Feb. 6, by denouncing the Saudi government’s execution of more than 40 “mujahideen” in January. The men were killed, he says, because they declared jihad against the “Crusaders” and opposed American interests around the globe.
Qosi then discusses al Qaeda’s jihad against the Saudi regime, saying Osama bin Laden was motivated by America’s supposed “occupation” of Arabia’s two holiest sanctuaries.
Qosi was transferred from Guantanamo to his home country of Sudan in July 2012. His first public appearance as an al Qaeda leader came in a video, “Guardians of Sharia,” which was released online by AQAP in early December.
In addition to praising the AQIM-Al Murabitoon joint venture, Qosi reaffirmed AQAP’s pledge of allegiance (bayat) to Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour and swore to Zawahiri (whom he referred to as “our sheikh”) that AQAP would continue to wage jihad on all fronts.
Qosi also eulogized Abu al Hasan al Bulaydi, a senior AQIM sharia official, in a video released in late December. He lamented Bulaydi’s death as a “great tragedy” and threatened the West.
As The Long War Journal has previously reported, al Qaeda has relocated part of its global management team from South Asia to Yemen. Therefore, some jihadists have been both AQAP leaders and managers in al Qaeda’s global network. It is possible that Qosi, who served directly under Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, is serving in that capacity today.