Gitmo prisoner suspected of trying to join 9/11 hijackers released

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Gitmo prisoner suspected of trying to join 9/11 hijackers released

A Saudi man accused of being the would-be 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks was released from Guantanamo Bay and sent back to his home country for psychiatric treatment, the Department of Defense said Monday.

Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani, 46, was flown to Saudi Arabia after the Biden administration dropped a legal fight initiated under former President Donald Trump contesting the prisoner’s repatriation.

A review board including military and intelligence officials concluded that al-Qahtani could be safely released from the US base in Cuba after spending 20 years in custody there.

According to medical examinations and records obtained by his lawyers, al-Qahtani has suffered from mental illness, including schizophrenia, since childhood.

Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani was suspected of attempting to join the 9/11 hijackers, but was turned away from entering the US in August 2001.
Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani was suspected of attempting to join the 9/11 hijackers, but was turned away from entering the US in August 2001.

Defense officials say al-Qahtani was trained by al-Quaeda and tried to join the hijackers and take part in the terror attacks. In August 2001, he was turned away from the US at the Orlando airport by immigration officers who were suspicious of his travel.

The lead Sept. 11 hijacker, Mohammed Atta, planned to pick al-Qahtani up to take part in the plot, according to previously released documents.

US forces subsequently captured Al-Qahtani in Afghanistan and sent him to Guantanamo in 2002.

At the the detention center, which Biden has said he intends to close, al-Qahtani was subjected to brutal interrogations that the Pentagon legal official in charge of war crimes commissions said amounted to torture.

The treatment included beatings, exposure to extreme temperatures and noise, sleep deprivation and extended solitary confinement.

As a result of the findings, the Bush administration dropped plans to put al-Qahtani on trial.

In 2002, an FBI official witnessed al-Qahtani speaking to non-existent people, hearing voices and crouching in a corner of his cell while covering himself with a sheet for hours at a time.

The Biden administration dropped a legal fight started in the Trump administration that attempted to prevent al-Qahtani from being released.
The Biden administration dropped a legal fight started in the Trump administration that attempted to prevent al-Qahtani from being released.
Walter Michot/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

With al-Qahtani’s release, Guantanamo now houses 38 prisoners. Half of them have been approved for repatriation or resettlement by the review board.

“The United States appreciates the willingness of Saudi Arabia and other partners to support ongoing US efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility,” the DOD said in a statement.

With Post wires

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