(AFP) – Mar 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Pentagon Friday disclosed the capture of an Afghan national who helped arrange Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Muhammed Rahim, described as one of Bin Laden's most trusted facilitators and procurement specialists, was turned over to the military by the CIA at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said Rahim was detained in mid-2007 and eventually turned over to US custody and placed in the CIA's interrogation program.
"Rahim is perhaps best known in counter-terror circles as a personal facilitator and translator for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders," Hayden said in a message to CIA employees.
"In 2001, as the terrorist haven in Afghanistan was collapsing, Rahim helped prepare Tora Bora as a hideout. When Al-Qaeda had to flee from there, Rahim was part of that operation, too," he said.
Bin Laden was believed to have been trapped in the mountain hideout near the Pakistani border, but eluded capture by slipping through a cordon of US and Afghan forces.
Rahim was the second detainee to be transferred to the military by the CIA since September 2006, when President George W. Bush confirmed the existence of a secret CIA overseas detention and interrogation program.
At the time, Bush said all the high value prisoners in CIA detention, including the alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been transferred to Guantanamo.
The first sign that the secret detention program had resumed was the CIA's transfer to Guantanamo in April 2007 of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an Al-Qaeda commander who had allegedly plotted the assassination of Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf.
Al-Iraqi was captured in late 2006 after Bush's announcement, a US intelligence official said.
"The detention program remains an available tool to fight terrorism," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Apart from its secrecy, the overseas detention program had come under fire because of charges that harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA amounted to torture.
Hayden has acknowledged that three detainees were subjected to water-boarding, a form of simulated drowning, but has said the practice no longer is used.
In a related development, Amnesty International said it had interviewed a Yemeni national, Khaled al-Maqtari, who says he was held for 28 months in secret CIA detention centers after being taken into custody in Iraq.
He was turned over to Yemen in around August 2006 and released in May of the following year, Amnesty said.
The London-based human rights organization said al-Maqtari alleged he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including prolonged isolation, repeated beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, as well as sensory deprivation and overload with bright lighting and loud music or repeated sound effects.
Hayden, meanwhile, said Rahim's detention was "a blow to more than one terrorist network. He gave aid to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other anti-coalition militias."
US officials said Rahim worked with al-Iraqi to try to recruit Afghans with access to coalition military facilities,
"He had knowledge of or was involved in Al-Qaeda attacks and plans against coalition forces in Afghanistan," Whitman said.
"At the time of his capture he was providing support to anti-coalition militias and groups allied with Al-Qaeda," he said.
An Afghan national from the country's eastern Nangarhar province, Rahim reportedly was educated at a madrassa in Pakistan and fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s.
He began working with Al-Qaeda in the mid-1990s, first as a supplier and later as a courier between top leaders of the network, according to the Pentagon.
"He carried messages for UBL (Osama bin Laden) in early 2002. He met with chief financial officer Shayleh Said al-Masri in 2004," Whitman said.
Before 2002, he procured chemicals for an Al-Qaeda plot against coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon. Whitman would provide no details on the plot.
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