At least a dozen former Guantanamo Bay inmates have rejoined Al Qaeda to fight in Yemen, The Times of London reported Tuesday, amid growing concern over the ability of the country’s government to accept almost 100 more former inmates from the detention center.
The Obama Administration promised to close the Guantanamo facility by January 22, a deadline that it will be unable to meet. The 91 Yemeni prisoners in Guantanamo make up the largest national contingent among the 198 being held.
Six prisoners were returned to Yemen last month. After the Christmas Day bomb plot in Detroit, U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that the country is becoming a hot-bed of terrorism. Eleven of the former inmates known to have rejoined Al Qaeda in Yemen were born in Saudi Arabia. The organization merged its Saudi and Yemeni offshoots last year.
The country’s mountainous terrain, poverty and lawless tribal society make it, in the opinion of many analysts, a close match for Afghanistan as a new terrorist haven.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern about the growing strength of Al Qaeda in Yemen.
"Obviously, we see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by Al Qaeda in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region," she said.
A Yemeni, Hani Abdo Shaalan, who was released from Guantanamo in 2007, was killed in an airstrike on December 17, the Yemeni Government reported last week. The deputy head of Al Qaeda in the country is Said Ali al-Shihri, 36, who was released from the prison in 2007. Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, who was released in 2006, is a prominent ideologue featured on Yemeni Al Qaeda Web sites.