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Homeland Security

Former Guantanamo Detainee Joins Al-Qaida in Yemen

By VOA News
23 January 2009

U.S. counterterrorism officials say a man released from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has resurfaced to become the deputy leader of al-Qaida's Yemeni branch.

Officials on Friday confirmed an al-Qaida Internet statement which says the former Guantanamo detainee now holds the terrorist group's number two position in Yemen.

The man, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, was released from Guantanamo in late 2007 and went to Saudi Arabia before going to Yemen.

Officials are investigating whether al-Shihri was involved in car bombings last year outside the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, that killed 16 people, including six attackers.

Last week, the U.S. Defense Department said 61 former Guantanamo prisoners are confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorism. A Pentagon spokesman said that figure is up from the 37 ex-prisoners mentioned in the Pentagon's previous estimate in March 2008.

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the Guantanamo Bay detention center to be closed within one year. He also set up a task force that will recommend what is to be done with about 245 remaining prisoners once the controversial prison is closed.

The Guantanamo prison was opened under former U.S. President George Bush to house foreign terror suspects.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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