The U.S. Defense Department announced Friday that it has taken custody of a senior al-Qaida official, who is now being held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman says the new detainee, Muhammad Rahim, was transferred from CIA custody this week. Whitman describes Rahim as a "high value detainee."
"He is a close associate of Osama bin Laden, and had close ties to al-Qaida organizations throughout the Middle East," said Whitman. "He helped prepare Tora Bora as a hideout for Osama bin Laden, and he assisted al-Qaida's exodus from the area in late 2001."
Whitman says Rahim was one of bin Laden's "most trusted facilitators and procurement specialists," and charges he was involved in numerous al-Qaida operations.
"He had knowledge of or was involved in al-Qaida attacks planned against coalition forces in Afghanistan," he said. "At the time of his capture, he was providing support to anti-coalition militias and groups allied with al-Qaida. Prior to 2002, Rahim procured chemicals designated for an al-Qaida plot to target U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and he worked with al-Qaida paramilitary commanders to recruit individuals that had access to U.S. military facilities."
Whitman says Rahim is an Afghan who has been a member of al-Qaida since the mid-1990s, and worked with several of the group's key leaders.
The spokesman would not provide details about Rahim's capture, where he was held before this week or whether he has provided any information to interrogators.
The South Asian news agency ANI reported in August of last year that Rahim had been captured in the Pakistani city of Lahore. A memo from CIA Director Michael Hayden to agency employees Friday, obtained by VOA and other news agencies, also said Rahim was captured last summer, and added that he had been involved in "plots against U.S. and Afghan targets" since the 1980s.
Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman says Rahim is the 16th "high value detainee" at Guantanamo. The last to arrive was Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who was transferred there last April. He is one of the men Rahim is accused of working with.
Whitman says Rahim will have a hearing at Guantanamo to formally determine his status, as all detainees do. Human Rights groups have criticized the process, but the U.S. government hopes to begin holding military tribunals for some of the 280 Guantanamo detainees this year.