Former Gitmo Captive on Saudi Payroll Arrested in French ISIS Cell
Surprise, surprise, another inmate released from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has been arrested for reengaging in terrorism. His name is Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar and his Department of Defense (DOD) file says he has links to “multiple terrorist plots” and as a member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) plotted with Al Qaeda to attack the United States Embassy in Sarajevo.
“Detainee advocated hostilities against US forces and the international community in Bosnia, and is linked to multiple terrorist plots and criminal related activity,” according to Lahmar’s DOD file. “Detainee had intentions to travel to Afghanistan and Iran, and is reported as doing so prior to his capture. Detainee has demonstrated a commitment to jihad, and would likely engage in anti-US activities if released.” Lahmar ended up at Gitmo in 2002 because the Algerian government refused to take him into custody after Bosnian authorities exhausted the legal limits for detention. The Pentagon recommended continued detention and determined that he was a high risk that posed a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies. Lahmar was also labeled a “high threat” from a detention perspective and of high intelligence value.
Also of note in the DOD file is that Lahmar was on Saudi Arabia’s payroll as an employee of the Saudi High Commission for Relief (SHCR), a non-governmental organization (NGO). He was arrested and convicted in 1997 for assaulting an American Citizen in Bosnia but was released, “after the SHCR intervened on his behalf,” the military file states. “After his release, detainee returned to work for the SHCR in Sarajevo.” Authorities in Croatia believe Lahmar was involved in the 1997 bombings in Travnik and Mostar and that he served in the el-Mujahid Brigade conducting training for acts of terrorism in the 1990s. Other reports link Lahmar to car theft and document forgery and indicate he’s wanted in Belgium and France for his involvement in violent activities, the military file says.
Despite his disturbing Pentagon document, the Obama administration released Lahmar from the top security compound at the U.S. Naval base in southeast Cuba in 2009 after France agreed to take him. This week he was arrested in Bordeaux as part of a terrorist cell that operated a recruiting network for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A British newspaper report says Lahmar was one of six people—four men and two women—captured as part of an aggressive crackdown on a jihadist recruiting network in the European nation that’s been rocked by multiple terrorist attacks in recent years. Just a few years ago a former Gitmo captive, 46-year-old Moroccan Lahcen Ikassrien, was arrested in Spain for operating a sophisticated recruitment network for the Syrian and Iraqi-based terror group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Like Lahmar and Ikassreien, many of the captives released from Gitmo have predictably returned to terrorist causes and it has long been documented in military and intelligence assessments. Just last year a report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) showed that of the 161 Gitmo detainees released by the Obama administration, nine were confirmed to be “directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities” and that 113 of the 532 Gitmo captives released during the George W. Bush administration have engaged in terrorist activities. “Based on trends identified during the past eleven years, we assess that some detainees currently at GTMO will seek to reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities after they are transferred,” according to the ODNI, which is composed of more than a dozen spy agencies, including Air Force, Army, Navy, Treasury and Coast Guard intelligence as well as the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The agency also stated in its report that “former GTMO detainees routinely communicate with each other, families of other former detainees, and previous associates who are members of terrorist organizations. The reasons for communication span from the mundane (reminiscing about shared experiences) to the nefarious (planning terrorist operations). We assess that some GTMO detainees transferred in the future also will communicate with other former GTMO detainees and persons in terrorist organizations.”
Other examples of recidivism among Gitmo captives include dozens who have rejoined Al Qaeda in Yemen, the country where the 2009 Christmas Day airline bomber proudly trained, and a number of high-ranking Al Qaeda militants in Yemen involved in a sophisticated scheme to send bombs on a U.S.-bound cargo plane. A few years ago, a Gitmo alum named Mullah Abdul Rauf, who once led a Taliban unit, established the first ISIS base in Afghanistan. In 2014, Judicial Watch uncovered an embarrassing gaffe involving an Al Qaeda operative liberated from Gitmo years earlier. Turns out the U.S. government put him on a global terrorist list and offered $5 million for information on his whereabouts!
As far back as 2010 former president Barack Obama’s National Intelligence Director confirmed that one in four inmates released from Gitmo resume terrorist activities against the United States. A year earlier the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, which gathers foreign military intelligence, disclosed that the number of Gitmo prisoners who returned to the fight since their release had nearly doubled in a short time. The assessment was made by using data such as fingerprints, pictures and other intelligence reports to confirm the high rate of recidivism among the released prisoners.