American Forces Press Service

American Found Among Detainees in Guantanamo

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2002 -- A 22-year-old man believed to be a U.S. citizen has been identified among the detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Yasser Esam Hamdi surrendered to U.S. and friendly Afghan forces after a deadly four-day prison riot near Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, in November 2001. The uprising was the same during which CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann was killed Nov. 25 and alleged American Taliban member John Walker Lindh was taken into custody.

Hamdi indicated to American officials at Guantanamo that he was born to Saudi parents in Baton Rouge, La. His family allegedly moved back to Saudi Arabia when Hamdi was "a toddler," Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said in a pres briefing this morning.

"We are working with the Department of Justice to really determine all the particulars including his citizenship," Clarke said. "(Justice Department officials) have a birth certificate that indicates he was born in the U.S. It's our understanding that his parents were employed in Louisiana when he was born and returned to Saudi Arabia within a very few years."

If an American citizen, Hamdi would not be subject to trial by military commission, Clarke said. Defense and Justice officials are working together to determine how best to deal with Hamdi provided his citizenship status is confirmed. Clarke said she hoped to know more specifics "by later today."

She also noted that Sunday marks six months since U.S. and coalition military operations began Oct. 7 in Afghanistan. "If you think about the progress that's been made in six months, it's been pretty remarkable," she said. "But as we always say, and we said on Oct. 7, and we'll probably be saying for a long time to (come), we still have a long way to go."