WASHINGTON – A man formerly held as a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention center was killed March 2 in a United States airstrike targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP), the Defense Department said Monday.
Defense Department spokesperson Navy Capt. Jeff Davis identified the former Guantanamo detainee as Yasir al-Silmi, a Yemeni national. Al-Silmi, also known as Muhammaed Yasir Ahmed, was held at Guantanamo from 2002 to 2009. He was repatriated in December 2009, after being approved for transfer by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force.
“All of them have special arrangements that are made to ensure that these sort of things don’t happen – that they return to the battlefield,” Davis said, explaining Guantanamo release procedures. “We obviously have some with whom they engage in recidivism. Those are tracked and reported, but this was one who clearly had become a recidivist.”
As of July 2016, nearly 18 percent of detainees transferred from Guantanamo are known to have re-engaged in hostilities while about 12 percent are suspected of re-engaging, according to figures from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
There are currently 41 men being held at the Guantanamo detention center, situated on the U.S. Naval base on land leased from Cuba.
Al-Silmi was captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan in March 2002, according to leaked military documents obtained by The New York Times, in a raid against suspected al-Qaeda safe houses. He was transferred to Guantanamo in June of that year, according to the 2006 documents.
His brother, Ali Abdullah Ahmed, also known as Salah Ahmed al-Salami, also was held at Guantanamo. He was one of three detainees who committed suicide on the same day in June 2006 at Guantanamo’s Camp Delta, the military said.
The airstrike took place in the southern Abyan Governorate of Yemen, and also killed Usayd al-Adani, an explosives expert and district leader of AQAP, Davis said.
A strike on Friday killed AQAP fighter and communications expert Harithah al-Waqari, Davis said.
He said the United States conducted one additional airstrike overnight in Yemen “against seven AQAP fighters,” amounting to about 40 airstrikes over the past five nights targeting AQAP in Yemen. The strike, like those prior, was coordinated with the Yemeni government under President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, Davis said.
“We will continue to target AQAP militants and facilities in order to disrupt the terrorist organization’s plots and protect American lives,” Davis said.
Yemen is in the midst of a two-year running civil war, which pits ousted President Hadi, who is supported by a Saudi Arabia-led, U.S.-backed coalition, against Iran-backed Houthi rebels and supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the course of the conflict and millions of people, including half a million children under age 5, are on the the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.