The Gitmo detainees swapped for Sgt. Bergdahl: Who are they?
(CNN) – Together with the announcement that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released after nearly five years of captivity came the news that five detainees at Guantanamo Bay were being transferred to Qatar.
Two senior administration officials confirmed the names of the five released detaines as Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari.
CNN profiled them two years ago, when their names first surfaced as candidates for a transfer as part of talks with the Taliban, which captured Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009:
Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa
Former Afghan minister of interior during Taliban rule, governor of Herat and a military commander. Alleged to have been “directly associated” with Osama bin Laden. According to a detainee assessment, Khairkhwa was probably associated with al Qaeda’s now-deceased leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. He is also described as one of the “major opium drug lords in western Afghanistan” and a “friend of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai.” He was arrested February 2002 in Pakistan and was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002. During questioning, Khairkhwa denied all knowledge of extremist activities.
Mullah Mohammad Fazl
Deputy minister of defense under the Taliban, senior military commander who was chief of staff of the Afghan army and commander of the Taliban’s 10th Division. Wanted by the U.N. in connection with the massacre of thousands of Afghan Shiites during the Taliban rule. “When asked about the murders, detainee did not express any regret,” according to the detainee assessment. Alleged to have been associated with several militant Islamist groups, including al Qaeda. Surrendered in November 2001 to Northern Alliance (opponents of the Taliban). Transferred to U.S. custody in December 2001 and one of the first arrivals at Guantanamo. Assessed as having high intelligence value.
Mullah Norullah Nori
Senior Taliban commander during hostilities with U.S. and allies in Mazar-e Sharif in late 2001. Taliban governor of two provinces and also implicated, according to detainee assessment, in the murder of Afghan Shiites. Nori claimed during interrogation that “he never received any weapons or military training.” Surrendered in November 2001 to Northern Alliance and transferred to U.S. custody a month later. According to 2008 detainee assessment, Nori “continues to deny his role, importance and level of access to Taliban officials.” Same assessment characterized him as high risk and of high intelligence value.
Abdul Haq Wasiq
Formerly deputy director of Taliban intelligence. An administrative review in 2007 cited a source as saying that Wasiq was also “an al Qaeda intelligence member” and had links with members of another militant Islamist group, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. Wasiq claimed, according to the review, that he was arrested while trying to help the United States locate senior Taliban figures. He denied any links to militant groups.
Mohammad Nabi Omari
According to the first administrative review of Omari in 2004, he was a member of the Taliban and associated with both al Qaeda and another militant group Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. He was the Taliban’s chief of communications and helped al Qaeda members to escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Omari acknowledged during hearings that he had worked for the Taliban but denied connections with militant groups. He also said that he had worked with a U.S. operative named Mark to try to track down Mullah Omar.