Ex-Gitmo detainee arrested on terror ties
Asif Shahzad ASSOCIATED PRESS
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A terrorism suspect recently detained in Pakistan is the same Swedish national once held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, police said Monday. He and others in his group were reportedly trying to join al Qaeda in the country's lawless tribal areas.
The development appeared to underscore the difficulty with predicting the path that detainees at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will take upon their release, with the Pentagon having acknowledged that a small but notable percentage of one-time inmates have joined, or rejoined, militant groups.
Dera Ghazi Khan police Chief Mohammad Rizwan told the Associated Press that authorities made the identification after interrogating the man, Mehdi-Muhammed Ghezali. A copy of his Swedish passport obtained by the AP showed that his face matched that of previously published photos of the man held at Guantanamo.
"I do confirm that he is the same person. He is a very dangerous man," Chief Rizwan said.
Ghezali was arrested on the outskirts of Dera Ghazi Khan, a southern Pakistani town, on Aug. 28 along with a group of foreigners including seven Turks and three other Swedes who lacked proper immigration stamps.
A Swedish man with the same name was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and held for two years at Guantanamo. The United States released him in 2004.
Ghezali -- born in Sweden to a Finnish mother and Algerian father -- was reportedly part of a group of 156 suspected al Qaeda fighters arrested in 2001 by Pakistani authorities while fleeing Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains. Ghezali, who is believed to be 30 years old, has denied ties to al Qaeda and said he was in the region only to learn more about Islam.
The other Swedes arrested were identified as Munir Awad and Safia Benaouda and a young boy who was apparently their son, according to a police report obtained by the AP through the Interior Ministry.
Benaouda and Awad are the same names of two people who also have been in the news before.
A Swede named Safia Benaouda, then 17, was held by Ethiopian authorities after being taken into custody along the Somalia-Kenya border in 2007. She told a Swedish newspaper that she was interrogated for weeks by white foreigners and asked about extremism in Sweden. A man named Munir Awad was identified as her fiance.
The Benaouda who was held in Ethiopia is the daughter of Helena Benaouda, chairwoman of the Swedish Muslim Council.
In Sweden, where the arrests have made headlines, Helena Benaouda told the tabloid Expressen over the weekend that she had not been able to reach her daughter, whom she thought was in Saudi Arabia.
"She is supposed to be in Mecca to celebrate Ramadan. But now I haven't been able to reach her by telephone, and as a mother and grandmother I am now very worried," she was quoted as saying. "If it turns out that this is my daughter, I will obviously seek an explanation to this."