National Security

Top Al-Qaida Terrorist Was Once Freed From US Custody In Afghanistan

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

A specially designated al-Qaida terrorist based out of Kuwait was released from U.S. custody in Afghanistan in 2001, The Long War Journal reveals.

The terrorist, Muhammad Hadi al-Anizi, was designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury March 14 for raising funds and arranging travel to Syria for would-be terrorists. The Treasury Department’s designation specifies that Anizi has been a known member of al-Qaida for a decade, has heavily supported al-Qaida’s operations in Syria since 2014, and “was appointed as AQ’s representative in Syria by AQ senior leadership.”

Al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, is a prominent rebel group which split from the Islamic State in 2013. The group retains thousands of fighters inside Syria and is known for cultivating alliances with local groups, making the group much harder to eradicate in the long term.

Anizi was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001 at the Battle of Tora Bora, where Usama Bin-Laden famously escaped to Pakistan. Anizi’s father, a former officer in the Kuwaiti security forces, took him to Afghanistan a month after 9/11. Anizi was 15 years old at the time of his capture, and was the first Arab prisoner released by the U.S. after extensive lobbying by the Kuwaiti government.

Kuwait’s foreign minister, who Anizi credited with his release, is now the monarch. Reports from the time of Anizi’s arrest indicate he was “fighting side-by-side with al Qaeda fighters” at the time. Anizi’s father was also killed in U.S. airstrikes on al-Qaida positions. These reports contradict his claim that he was in Afghanistan to provide “relief” assistance to civilians.

Anizi now lives with impunity in Kuwait, despite his U.S. designation. A former U.S. government official tasked with tracking terrorism financing told in audience in mid-February that “there continue to be designated terrorist financiers operating openly and notoriously” in Kuwait and Qatar.

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