East African Alleged al Qaeda Member Receives Gitmo Review Hearing
By Leah Schulz
Yesterday the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) held a hearing for Mohammed Abdul Malik, a 42-year-old detainee from Kenya, to determine whether he represents “a continuing threat to the security of the United States,” or can be cleared for transfer.
According to the government, Abdul Malik was inspired by a radical imam to leave his native Kenya in 1996 for Somalia where he received extremist training. While in Somalia he developed close relationships with members of al Qaeda in East Africa (AQEA), including high-level operational planners. Subsequently, Abdul Malik became an al Qaeda facilitator and was allegedly involved in the preparation and execution of the 2002 Mombasa attacks, which included the bombing of the Kikambala Paradise Hotel and a missile attack on an Israeli airliner.
In February 2007, Kenyan authorities arrested Malik for his involvement in the Mombasa attacks and later transferred him to U.S. custody. Although he has been “highly compliant” since arriving at Guantanamo in March 2007, in debriefings Malik offered conflicting narratives about his activities, provided little information of value about his associates, expressed discomfort with providing further information, and in mid-2010 stopped participating. Despite this, Malik has not expressed continued support for extremist activity or anti-U.S. sentiments.
According to his personal representatives, Malik gained a sense of achievement from being a camp cook for his fellow detainees. Furthermore, his experiences meeting people of various cultural and religious backgrounds while in the prison have fostered an awareness and appreciation for other beliefs and customs which will serve him well upon transfer.
Abdul Malik’s representatives conveyed his desire to reconnect with his wife and children and his willingness to participate in a rehabilitation or reintegration program. They also expressed confidence that his prior experience as a small business owner for a fishing and diving company as well as his strong English-language skills should help Malik obtain employment regardless of where he is transferred.
The personal representatives concluded that Malik’s intention to pursue a better way of life if transferred from Gitmo is authentic and that he bears no animosity towards anyone. Significantly, Malik has not made any negative or derogatory remarks toward U.S. policies nor has he expressed an interest in extremist activities of any kind. If transferred, he says he would reunite with his wife and children who currently reside in Somalia.
Earlier this year the Obama Administration released a plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The plan commits to “accelerating the review of those detainees who have not had an initial PRB review and are neither currently designated for transfer nor charged or convicted by military commission.” As of this hearing, 80 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay and 35 are still eligible for PRB review. Nine more PRB hearings are scheduled in the coming months.