Wednesday 6 June 2012

al-Libi last of Bagram escapees

The Bagram escapees in their orange jumpsuits
If it is confirmed that Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed in a CIA drone strike in North Waziristan earlier this week, it will be the final chapter in one of the most embarrassing events of the Afghan War.
al-Libi was the only one of the four prisoners who escaped from the Bagram Detention Center on 11 July 2005 who still remained at large. The escape has entered the annals of jihadi history as a major humiliation for the US forces in Afghanistan and helped to give al-Libi his exalted status within al-Qaeda. al-Libi was not thought to have been much of an organiser or thinker, but was important to al-Qaeda because he had had religious training and his prison escape engendered awe and admiration amongst the recruits he met and cultivated whilst living in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The Bagram escape was notorious because even to this day it remains unexplained. How did the men open the door of their shared prison cell? Where did they obtain the blue overalls they changed into? How did they find their way out of the compound, over the wall and into a waiting vehicle? Who were their accomplices? Initially a US guard was suspected of complicity, but no-one has ever been charged.
The four ex-prisoners in a video issued after their escape
All four of those who escaped were dangerous terrorists, awaiting transfer to Guantanamo Bay. They escaped under the noses of their American guards and disappeared into the night. Before long, videos extolling the exploits of the four men were circulating in jihadi chatrooms and internet forums.
The three others who escaped from Bagram were Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Qahtani, Omar al-Faruq and Abu Abdullah al-Shami.
al-Qahtani, a Saudi said by some to have been responsible for maintaining al-Qaeda's operational support structure in Afghanistan and also leader of the escapees, was allegedly recaptured by US forces in a safe house near Khost airport, eastern Afghanistan, in November 2006, although this has never been officially confirmed. His present whereabouts are unknown.
Omar al-Faruq, an Iraqi citizen brought up in Kuwait, was a long-term al-Qaeda operative, sent to south-east Asia in 1998 to organise support for the organisation and to liaise with the Jemaah Islamiyah organisation. Captured in Indonesia in the summer of 2002, he was later handed over to the US Army in Afghanistan. al-Faruq was eventually killed in a shoot-out with British troops in the Iraqi port city of Basrah in September 2006, having only been in the country for a few weeks.
Abu Abdallah al-Shami was a Syrian who was originally captured by US forces in Khost province in 2003. He was killed in an airstrike in July 2008 in Afghanistan's Paktika province, where he led Arab, Pakistani, Uzbek and Chechen forces.

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