Review finds Guantánamo prisoner was ‘low-ranking’ militant

Ayyub Murshid Ali Salih in a photo provided to the McClatchy Newspapers by the WikiLeak anti-secrecy group.
Ayyub Murshid Ali Salih in a photo provided to the McClatchy Newspapers by the WikiLeak anti-secrecy group.

A detainee went before a parole board Tuesday as a low-level militant not part of an al-Qaida terrorist cell as previously believed, according to documents released by the Pentagon.

Ayyub Murshid Ali Salih, a Yemeni, was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, in September 2002 and has been held at Guantánamo as a suspected enemy combatant since Oct. 28, 2002. He was detained as part of raids that netted more significant suspects, and authorities decided he and several others were part of a cell planning a future attack.

A chart that accompanied the so-called Senate Intelligence Committee “Torture Report” indicated he was held by the CIA for 30 days or more, apparently separate and apart from his military detention at Guantánamo.

But authorities re-evaluating the evidence against the now 37-year-old captive concluded he was only among a pool of Yemeni men being considered for future attacks, according to documents released ahead of his appearance before the Periodic Review Board.

“Our review of available intelligence indicates that he probably did not play a major role in terrorist operations, leading us to disagree with previous U.S. government assessments that he was involved in a 2002 plot to conduct an attack in Karachi, Pakistan,” according to an intelligence assessment dated Dec. 18, 2015.

The Periodic Review Board, made up of representatives of six government agencies, has been conducting a review of dozens of Guantánamo prisoners to determine if they can be released from the base in Cuba as part of an effort to close the detention center.

The U.S. does not return prisoners to Yemen, so officials would most likely have to find another country to accept Salih if he is approved for transfer. A representative appointed by the military told the board that Salih was willing to be resettled in any country to get on with his life.

“Ayyub admitted that he has made mistakes in his past, to include transgressions with the guards

at a time when most of the camp was on a hunger strike,” the anonymous U.S. military officer said. “However, many things have changed since that time, and he has a new outlook on life.”

The U.S. on Tuesday held 91 captives at the base, including 34 who have been cleared for transfer.