Who Are The Original 20 Guantánamo Bay Detainees?



Mullah Mazloom, sometimes identified as Mullah Mohammad Fazl, was among five Taliban members sent to Qatar in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held prisoner by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s northwest frontier. Mullah Mazloom, a former chief of the Taliban Army, is accused of having a role in the massacres of Shiite Hazara in Afghanistan before the United States invasion in 2001, crimes that cannot be tried by a military commission. In Qatar, he has emerged as a member of the Taliban negotiating team devising an agreement to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan and determine a power-sharing settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. He traveled to Pakistan as part of the negotiating team in the summer of 2020, with advance approval of the U.S., Qatari and Pakistani governments.

Mr. Wasiq, a deputy minister of intelligence before his capture in 2001, was also included in the Bergdahl trade and has joined the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar. His brother-in-law, Ghulam Ruhani, was repatriated in 2007. Both men were captured after attending a negotiating meeting with U.S. officials. Once transferred to Doha, where he remains, Mr. Wasiq also took part in the talks with the United States, which resulted in the release of more Taliban prisoners held by the Afghanistan government under a deal with the Trump administration that was meant to halt insurgent Taliban attacks on U.S. forces.

Mullah Noori, who was a provincial governor in Afghanistan, has also joined the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar. He and the other four Taliban prisoners who were traded for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl live as guests of the Qatari government like many expatriates in Doha. They have been joined by family, send their children to a Pakistani school set up for foreign families, and live on government stipends in a compound. Their ability to travel is regulated by the Qatari government.

Mr. Shalabi became one of the best-known Saudi prisoners at Guantánamo because of his long-running hunger strikes, which at times required that he be force fed. After returning to Saudi Arabia in September 2015, he was immediately sent to prison on a three-year sentence that was cut short for “good behavior” and he was released in 2018 after a year or more in a rehabilitation program. He has married and became a father, making good on a wish his lawyer put before the Guantánamo parole board in April 2015 “to settle down, get married and have a family of his own, and put the past behind him.”

Mr. Rahizi, a Yemeni citizen who the United States concluded could not safely be repatriated, is confined to a cell in the United Arab Emirates, according to activists who have spoken with the families of Yemenis who were sent there for resettlement by the Obama administration. American officials said that the Emirates had agreed to establish a step-down program for detainees who could not go home — moving from prison to a rehabilitation program to jobs in the area, which relies heavily on foreign labor. That never materialized. The Life After Guantánamo project, based in London, describes detention in the Emirates as grim and threatening, in part because the country has considered involuntarily repatriating former prisoners to Yemen, where they would be in danger.

Mr. Malik, a Yemeni who went by the name Abdul Malik al Rahabi, is living in Montenegro, where the United States sent him for resettlement, and trying to sell works of art he painted while at Guantánamo. He was joined by his wife and daughter, who found life there socially incompatible, so the family moved to Khartoum, Sudan. But life was difficult there, too, and they returned to Montenegro. Art sales stopped some time ago and Mr. Malik’s idea to work as a driver and guide for tourists soured when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

As a Yemeni, Mr. Moqbel was ineligible for repatriation because of the civil war, which made it impossible for the Obama administration to negotiate safe security arrangements. Instead, neighboring Oman agreed to take him, along with 29 other detainees, in one of the most successful resettlement programs. He has found work in a factory, married and is now father to two children, according to the former Guantánamo prisoner Mansour Adayfi, who chronicles life after detention for some former prisoners. As a rule, former detainees in Oman refuse to speak with foreign reporters, apparently at the urging of the host nation.


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