Surprise, surprise; one of the suspects arrested in connection with last week’s terrorist attacks in Turkey spent time at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. released him to his native Russia along with six other detainees who subsequently became known as the “Russian Taliban,” according to an alarming report published by a Washington D.C. think-tank that studies totalitarian societies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
One of the members of the so-called Russian Taliban, Airat Vakhitov, is among 30 people arrested by Turkish authorities in connection with the attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport that killed dozens and injured more than 100, a U.S. government-funded news service reports. Vakhitov spent two years at Gitmo after being captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001, the news report says, and he’s one of 11 Russian citizens arrested in the last few days in connection with the Turkey attack, which was carried out by ISIS. “Russia’s security services have accused Vakhitov of fighting in Syria and Iraq alongside terrorist groups, as well as recruiting foreign fighters for IS and other groups, and raising funds for terrorists,” the news story says.
Judicial Watch tracked down Vakhitov’s Department of Defense (DOD) Gitmo file and it says he was born in Naberyozhnyj and traveled by train to Afghanistan where he was eventually arrested by the Taliban on suspicion of espionage. He was taken to Gitmo in mid-June, 2002 and was “cooperative” during his two-year stay. “Because of the Russian government’s agreement to incarcerate this detainee upon his transfer, and provided that he remains incarcerated under the control of the Russian government, the detainee poses no future threat to the U.S. or its allies,” the DOD file states. “In addition, the Russian government has agreed to share with the United States all intelligence derived from this detainee in the future.”
It’s not clear when Russia freed Vakhitov or if he was ever really incarcerated there after leaving Gitmo. An international human rights organizations claims Vakhitov and his fellow countrymen were tortured in Russia after leaving Gitmo in 2004. “Access to the ex-detainees is limited because three of them are in prison and the rest have either managed to leave the country or are in hiding,” the group writes in an announcement promoting a report blasting the U.S. for relying on Russia’s “diplomatic assurances” of fair treatment to justify sending Gitmo captives.
If Vakhitov was involved in the Turkey attack, he’s simply the latest of many Gitmo captives to reengage in terrorism after leaving the top security compound at the U.S. Naval base in southeast Cuba. Judicial Watch has reported on this for years, documenting specific cases based on intelligence reports. Earlier this year the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) disclosed that dozens have joined terrorist causes after begin released, including seven of the 144 captives freed by the Obama administration.
Of the 532 released under the George W. Bush administration (this includes Vakhitov), 111 eventually reengaged in extremist causes, the ODNI revealed. Just a few weeks ago Judicial Watch reported that a veteran Al Qaeda operative released from Gitmo to Uruguay in late 2014 has gone missing and authorities in Latin America believe he sneaked into Brazil after being denied legal entry. Keep in mind the summer Olympics are just weeks away in Brazil.
In one embarrassing case an Al Qaeda operative freed from Gitmo was subsequently placed by the U.S. government on a global terrorist list where a $5 million reward was offered for information on his whereabouts. The Saudi national, Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, was repatriated by the Bush administration in 2006 under a Saudi Arabian “rehabilitation” program that supposedly reformed Guantanamo Bay jihadists but instead serves as a training camp for future terrorists.