A top-level al-Qaeda operative who was close to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden pleaded guilty to war crimes against the US and allied forces in Afghanistan from close to two decades ago.
Held at Guantanamo Bay detention center for more than 15 years, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi admitted to conspiracy and other violations of international laws of war as an al-Qaeda commander during the early years of the US conflict in Afghanistan.
The Iraqi national was a senior figure in the terror organization since the mid-1990s, leading training camps for operatives in the years leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US said.
When the US invaded Afghanistan, Hadi al-Iraqi helped spearhead deadly al-Qaeda attacks against Americans and their allies, as well as civilians in the country and Pakistan.
He also assisted in the destruction of the giant, 6th century sandstone Buddha statues built into a cliff in the Bamiyan province in March 2001 because the group found the structures offensive to their idea of Islam, according to a military charges sheets.
Hadi al-Iraqi was sent to Guantanamo in 2007 after he was captured a year prior and formally charged in front of a military commission in 2014.
He was in regular communication with bin Laden, according to the Department of Defense and would also connect with the Taliban to target American forces.
Hadi al-Iraqi, who is roughly 60 and says his real name is Nashwan al-Tamir, will eventually be sent to a third country under the plea agreement. He was facing a life sentence, but is expected to leave the detention center after he receives further medical treatment related to a deteriorating spinal condition that’s left him partially paralyzed.
Hadi al-Iraqi was found in his cell partially disabled and incontinent in 2017 by guards, according to The New York Times. Guards bring him to court in a wheelchair, and a hospital bed is wheeled in if the prisoner becomes drowsy from pain killers, the Times reported.
Wearing a traditional skullcap and with a long gray beard, Hadi al-Iraqi calmly answered “yes sir” and “yes, your honor,” to a military judge on Monday, according to the Associated Press, which witnessed the hearing from a video feed at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Hadi al-Iraqi’s case took so long due to his bad health and other legal and logistical issues.
This is the first plea agreement reached since President Joe Biden took office. There remains 37 men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay as the administration seeks to reduce the number of prisoners there and close the base down.
Five prisoners who are accused of aiding in the 9-11 attacks are imprisoned there and face the death penalty in their proceeding.
With Post wires