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Biden releases terrorist from Guantanamo Bay

By Ben Marquis
|
February 7, 2023

Last week, while much of the nation was closely focused on the Chinese spy balloon traversing across the continental United States, President Joe Biden's administration rather quietly took some separate but equally controversial action.

Majid Khan, a 42-year-old detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, was released and transferred to the custody of the Central American nation of Belize, the Daily Mail reported.

Khan is alleged to have been a "close personal ally" of former top Al Qaeda terrorist leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed, also known as KSM, who had been tasked to deliver money and transport senior operatives on behalf of the terrorist organization, and is further alleged to have been part of plans to conduct attacks within the U.S. on gas stations and water reservoirs that never transpired.

He was a Pakistani citizen who had been granted asylum by the U.S. in 1998 while he was a high school student and became a legal resident but traveled back to his home country and joined Al Qaeda in 2002 after he was "radicalized" by the group's murderous 9/11 attacks.

Released to Belize

According to a Feb. 2 press release from the Defense Department, Khan had pled guilty to various terrorism charges in 2012 and, as part of a deal in which he agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government, was sentenced to 10 years of confinement with credit for time already served in U.S. custody.

In December 2022, after it had already been determined that Khan was eligible to be released after completing his sentence, an agreement was reached with the government of Belize to accept a transfer of Khan to that nation's custody from Guantanamo Bay.

"The United States appreciates the willingness of the Government of Belize and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility," the Pentagon said in the statement.

That release further noted that, as of now, there are only 34 detainees left at the Guantanamo Bay facility, which includes 20 deemed eligible for transfers, three who are up for a periodic review, nine who are currently involved in the military commissions process, and two who have been convicted and are serving sentences.

"I am truly sorry"

In a statement released through his legal supporters, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Khan expressed his gratitude to Belize and said, "I have been given a second chance in life and I intend to make the most of it."

"I deeply regret the things that I did many years ago, and I have taken responsibility and tried to make up for them. I continue to ask for forgiveness from God and those I have hurt. I am truly sorry," he continued.

"The world has changed a lot in twenty years, and I have changed a lot as well," Khan added. "I promise all of you, especially the people of Belize that I will be a productive, law-abiding member of society. Thank you for believing in me, and I will not let you down. My actions will speak louder than my words."

Allegedly tortured at CIA "black site" before Guantanamo imprisonment

According to NBC News, Belize had been one of about a dozen different countries that the Biden administration had quietly reached out to over the past several months in search of a nation that would be willing to not only accept but also provide support for Khan's resettlement once he was officially released -- a process that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was "personally involved" with in negotiating the terms.

Other than praising Belize for agreeing to accept custody of Khan, the administration has provided few details on what, exactly, was entailed in the negotiated agreement.

As previously noted, Khan had left the asylum he had received and his home in Maryland to return to Pakistan to join Al Qaeda, where he quickly became a "direct subordinate" of KSM, only to then be arrested in Karachi in 2003 and transferred to the custody of the CIA.

He was then reportedly held for more than three years at a CIA "black site" where he was allegedly interrogated and tortured before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 as one of 14 "high-value detainees," including his boss KSM, where he had since been held in custody.

Other detainees will also soon be released

To be sure, Khan may well have renounced his former terrorism ties and it is indeed possible that he will make good on his vow to be a "productive, law-abiding member of society" in his new home of Belize. That said, there are undoubtedly some Americans who remain skeptical, and it would be exceedingly bad for the Biden administration if it is later found that Khan has returned to his old jihadist ways.

Meanwhile, NBC News noted that two other detainees, Pakistani brothers Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani and Mohammed Ahmed Ghulam Rabbani, who were arrested in 2002 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004, are also set to be released "in the coming weeks," though it is not clear yet where they will eventually be transferred to.