Guantánamo

Pentagon confirms: Freed detainee was suicide bomber

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A Kuwaiti freed from Guantánamo Bay in 2005 carried out a recent suicide car bombing in Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday, confirming what is believed to be the first such attack by a former detainee from the U.S. military detention center in Cuba.

Abdallah Saleh al Ajmi took part in one of three suicide bomb attacks last month that targeted Iraqi security forces in the northern city of Mosul, said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Scott Rye, a military spokesman in Baghdad. At least seven people were killed in the attacks.

Ajmi's American lawyer said incarceration at Guantánamo may have turned the Kuwaiti into a terrorist. But the U.S. military says he was already an enemy combatant when he was brought to Guantánamo in 2002, after his capture in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon says that up to 36 former Guantánamo detainees have resumed hostilities against the U.S., including some who have been taken back into custody or killed.

"There is an implied future risk to U.S. and allied interests with every detainee who is released or transferred from Guantánamo," a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, told The Associated Press.

Military documents show Ajmi, 29, had a history of discipline problems at Guantánamo Bay, where he was held for more than 3 1/2 years. According to one report, Ajmi said in August 2004 that "he now is a jihadist, an enemy combatant, and that he will kill as many Americans as he possibly can."

Tom Wilner, a lawyer who represented Ajmi and other Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantánamo, said his client once appeared for a meeting with a broken arm. Ajmi claimed he had suffered the injury when guards tried to stop him from praying.

Wilner, who met with Ajmi about five times in 2005, said he appeared "particularly angry" about being confined without charge.

"I don't know whether the experience of being kept down there in isolation radicalized him," Wilner said.

Despite his problems at Guantánamo, Ajmi was transferred to Kuwait in 2005. The oil rich emirate was supposed to ensure he would no longer pose a threat.

In May 2006, a Kuwaiti court acquitted him of being a member of al Qaeda and raising money for the terror group. The court also acquitted four other former Guantánamo prisoners.

Dubai-based al-Arabiya television last week reported Ajmi had carried out a suicide attack. The U.S. military could not confirm it until Wednesday. Rye said authorities determined he entered Iraq through Syria and that Ajmi's family confirmed his death.

His cousin Salem Ajmi told AP in Kuwait that the former prisoner had settled down and married after coming home. He and his wife had one child, with another on the way. But several weeks ago, he suddenly started disappearing for days at a time. Then, on April 30, an unknown man called another relative to say Ajmi had died in Iraq, the cousin said.

"We were shocked by the news," Salem al Ajmi said. "After his return from detention, his life was normal."

A Web site frequently used by Islamic militants displayed a banner headline Wednesday saying "Goodbye Abdullah al Ajmi, the hero of the heroes."

The three suicide car bombings last month killed at least seven people and wounded 28, Mosul officials said. It was not yet known which one al-Ajmi allegedly carried out.

Wilner called Ajmi's alleged participation a "tragedy" that could have been avoided with formal court hearings, rather than military hearings, for all Guantánamo prisoners to determine if there are grounds to hold them.

"The lack of a process results in tragic mistakes on both sides," the lawyer said.

Khaled al Odah, who heads a private group that campaigns for the release of Kuwaitis at Guantánamo, said the suicide attack should not be held against those still being held there, including his son.

"It is a very sad event and we are grappling with what happened," Odah said.

Associated Press writer Diana Elias contributed to this report from Kuwait City, Kuwait.

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