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15 April 2024

Top Al Qaeda member in US military custody: Pentagon

By Agencies


The Pentagon said on Friday it is holding an Afghan national who helped arrange Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora in late 2001, a spokesman said on Friday.


Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Muhammed Rahim, who was turned over to the military by the CIA, was a high level member of Al Qaeda with contacts through the Middle East and one of Bin Laden's most trusted facilitators and procurement specialists.


"He helped prepare Tora Bora as a hideout for Osama bin Laden. He assisted Al Qaeda's exodus from the area in late 2001," Whitman said.


The Al Qaeda leader is believed to have slipped through a cordon of US and Afghan forces from the mountain hideout near the Pakistan border, and has eluded capture ever since.


The Pentagon spokesman would not say when or where Rahim was captured or how long he was held by the CIA, but said he was transferred to US military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba earlier this week.


"He had knowledge of or was involved in Al Qaeda attacks and plans against coalition forces in Afghanistan," Whitman said.


"At the time of his capture he was providing support to anti-coalition militias and groups allied with Al Qaeda," he said.


Rahim, an Afghan national from the country's eastern Nangahar province, first began working with Al Qaeda in the mid 1990s, first as a supplier and later as a courier between top leaders of the network.


"He carried messages for UBL (Osama bin Laden) in early 2002. He met with chief financial officer Shayleh Said Al Masri in 2004," he said.


Before 2002, he procured chemicals for an Al Qaeda plot against coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon. Whitman would provide no details on the plot.


"And he worked with paramilitary commanders to recruit individuals who had access to US military facilities, specifically Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi," he said.


Al Iraqi was the most recent high level Al Qaeda captive transferred to Guantanamo, which occurred in April 2007.


Whitman would not say whether Al Iraqi provided information that led to Rahim's capture.


Rahim is the 16th so-called "high value" prisoner to be transferred to Guantanamo since September 2006 when President George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of secret CIA detention facilities overseas. (AFP)