Syria

Syrian Civil War Fighters Include Ex-Guantanamo Detainees, Video Shows

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Ibrahim bin Shakaran eulogizing over Abu Hamza al-Maghrebi
Credit: Youtube screencap

Video evidence has surfaced that indicates ex-Guantanamo detainees are among the rebel forces in the Syrian civil war.

The video shows the funeral of a Moroccan man identified as Abu Hamza al-Maghrebi. According to the Miami Herald, when he was detained at Guantanamo, he was known as Mohammed al-'Alami.

Aaron Zelin, editor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Jihadology blog, explained that "we finally have evidence with this video from a credible media outlet within the jihadi media sphere." Zelin writes that "Syria is probably the biggest jihad since the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Obviously there've been cases of people [Guantánamo detainees] who've gone back to continue the fight. It's not surprising. But it is interesting."

Apparently, the white-bearded man in the video who delivered the eulogy was also a Moroccan previously held at Guantanamo. He is known as Ibrahim bin Shakaran. Another Jihadology blogger, Aymenn Jawad Al Tamimi, dug up a Guantanamo Bay memorandum about Shakaran on Wikileaks. Tamimi writes that Shakaran is "a well-known al-Qa'ida veteran," who "fought in the Hindu Kush and Tora Bora mountain ranges of Afghanistan" before being captured by U.S. forces. Additionally, Shakaran "is described in the video as the leader of Harakat Sham al-Islam."

The Telegraph notes that there are roughly 100,000 fighters on the rebels' side, though many are part of radical Muslim groups and are not even Syrians:

The new study by IHS Jane's, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists—who would include foreign fighters—fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda..

Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.

This calls into question several issues about U.S. foreign policy. The effectiveness of violating individuals' rights is problematic, since detention did not deter either al-'Alami or Shakaran. Likewise, the Obama Administration's desire to support rebels, who potentially harbor ill-will against the U.S., is counterproductive.