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Released Gitmo Prisoner Now al-Qaeda in Yemen Leader

Making good on a campaign promise, President Obama issued an executive order to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year. A recent disclosure about the post-Gitmo activities of a former detainee, however, clouds the future of that decision:

A Saudi man who was released from Guantanamo after spending six years inside the U.S. prison camp has joined al-Qaida's branch in Yemen and is now the terror group's No. 2 in the country, according to a purported Internet statement from al-Qaida.

The announcement, made this week on a Web site commonly used by militants, came as President Barack Obama ordered the detention facility closed within a year.

The Yemen branch - known as "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula" - said the man, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, returned to his home in Saudi Arabia after his release from Guantanamo about a year ago and from there went to Yemen. The Internet statement, which could not immediately be verified, said al-Shihri was the group's second-in-command in Yemen and his prisoner number at Guantanamo was 372.

"He managed to leave the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia) and join his brothers in al-Qaida," the statement said.

Documents released by the U.S. Defense Department show that al-Shihri was released from the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in November 2007 and transferred to his homeland. The documents confirmed his prisoner number was 372.

Al-Shihri's apparent return to al-Qaeda and terrorist activities further discredits the narrative, proffered by some human rights activists, that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are little more than unfortunate victims of an indiscriminate and over zealous American dragnet. In addition, the case of al-Shihri illustrates the hazards of recidivism and the dangers of regarding, treating, and housing the remaining detainees as ordinary prisoners.

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