Ibrahim al-Qosi

Sudanese citizen Ibrahim al-Qosi is a member of al-Qaeda and has been a loyal associate of the terrorist group’s founder, Osama bin Laden. He served primarily as a courier, accountant, and treasurer for al-Qaeda until Pakistani forces arrested him in 2001. Qosi was subsequently transferred to U.S. custody and detained at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center from 2002 to 2012.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 22, 2018, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/54-ibrahim-ahmed-mahmoud-al-qosi. In July 2010, Qosi pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism. He was sentenced to 14 years, but was released after two and repatriated to Sudan in 2012.Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee now an al Qaeda leader in Yemen,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/12/ex-guantanamo-detainee-now-an-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen.php. Qosi has since returned to terrorism and has been featured in several propaganda videos for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), most recently in January 2018.“New video message from al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula: ‘Secrets and Dangers and the Departure of the Best of Us’,” Jihadology, January 17, 2018, https://jihadology.net/2018/01/17/new-video-message-from-al-qaidah-in-the-arabian-peninsula-secrets-and-dangers-and-the-departure-of-the-best-of-us/; Thomas Joscelyn, “Former Guantanamo detainee warns against spilling secrets,” Long War Journal, January 19, 2018, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/former-guantanamo-detainee-warns-against-spilling-secrets-in-aqap-video.php.

After being recruited by al-Qaeda in 1990, Qosi received military training and fought in Afghanistan. In 1992, he relocated to Sudan to serve as an accountant and treasurer for Osama bin Laden. Qosi was later chosen to be part of bin Laden’s security detail where he was also responsible for gathering supplies and cooking.Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee now an al Qaeda leader in Yemen,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/12/ex-guantanamo-detainee-now-an-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen.php. “The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 22, 2018, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/54-ibrahim-ahmed-mahmoud-al-qosi; Associated Press, “Bin Laden’s cook freed from Guantanamo Bay after 10 years,” CBS News, July 11, 2012, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bin-ladens-cook-freed-from-guantanamo-bay-after-10-years/. After returning to Afghanistan, Qosi fought against the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban coalition of militias, near Kabul and Kandahar between 1998 and 2001.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 22, 2018, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/54-ibrahim-ahmed-mahmoud-al-qosi.

In December 2001, he was captured by the Pakistani military while fleeing the battle of Tora Bora, Afghanistan, alongside other members of bin Laden’s security group.Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee now an al Qaeda leader in Yemen,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/12/ex-guantanamo-detainee-now-an-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen.php. Qosi was subsequently transferred into U.S. custody, where he was held in a detention facility in Kandahar, and was moved to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in January 2002.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 22, 2018, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/54-ibrahim-ahmed-mahmoud-al-qosi. During interrogations, Qosi was open about being an al-Qaeda member and provided valuable intelligence on high-level operatives.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 22, 2018, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/54-ibrahim-ahmed-mahmoud-al-qosi.

On November 15, 2007, U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) assessed Qosi as “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.” JTF-GTMO recommended his continued detention out of concern that he would rejoin al-Qaeda if released. Qosi was considered of high intelligence value due to his key insights on bin Laden and other senior al-Qaeda operatives like Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current al-Qaeda leader since bin Laden’s death in 2011.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 22, 2018, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/54-ibrahim-ahmed-mahmoud-al-qosi. Nonetheless, Qosi was repatriated to Sudan in July 2012 after he agreed to a plea deal that suspended 12 years of his sentence in exchange for his cooperation with U.S. prosecutors.Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee now an al Qaeda leader in Yemen,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/12/ex-guantanamo-detainee-now-an-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen.php. It was reported that Qosi would enroll in a reintegration program in Sudan, though it is unclear if this transpired. Upon release, Qosi’s attorney said, “One of the main reasons the United States was willing to return [Qosi] to Sudan was the U.S. confidence in the government of Sudan’s program and its confidence that Mr. al-Qosi would not represent any kind of threat to the United States.” He added, “If [the U.S.] had considered him a threat, they would not have released him.”Associated Press, “Bin Laden’s cook freed from Guantanamo Bay after 10 years,” CBS News, July 11, 2012, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bin-ladens-cook-freed-from-guantanamo-bay-after-10-years/.

Qosi instead returned to terrorism and became an AQAP leader. A Defense Intelligence Agency assessment from March 2017 concluded that Qosi has “likely reengaged in terrorist associated activities since at least late-2015” by serving as a spokesman for AQAP and encouraging to wage jihad.“United States’ Response to the U.S.C.M.C.R’s 11 March 2017 Order,” CMCR, March 23, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Al-Qosi-Response-to-the-Courts-March-11-2017-Order.pdf. AQAP released a video in December 2015 entitled “Guardians of Sharia,” in which Qosi discussed jihad with fellow commanders and encouraged lone wolf attacks against the U.S. and other western nations.Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee now an al Qaeda leader in Yemen,” Long War Journal, December 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/12/ex-guantanamo-detainee-now-an-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen.php.

On February 6, 2016, AQAP posted a 50-minute lecture online starring Qosi, titled “A Message to Our People in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.” Qosi chronicled al-Qaeda’s fight against Saudi Arabia, and praised young “mujahideen” fighters for waging jihad in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (in the 1990s). Finally, he ended the lecture by urging Muslims to fight in Yemen against the “Crusader-rejectionist [Shiite] campaign.”Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee prominently featured in al Qaeda propaganda,” Long War Journal, February 15, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/02/ex-guantanamo-detainee-prominently-featured-al-qaeda-propaganda.php.

In May 2016, AQAP published its 15th edition of the Inspire magazine in which Qosi writes about his life with Osama bin Laden and mocks the United States for its victorious sentiment after bin Laden’s death in 2011, “[…] Obama we are all Usama. We are a nation, which does not know how to surrender. A nation that never dies with the death of its men or leaders.” Qosi also explains the “betrayal” of Jamal al-Fadhl, who provided the U.S. government with valuable insider information in 1996. Qosi then goes on to elaborate on the military, economic, political and psychological consequences of the 9/11 attack on the United States.AQAP, “Professional assassinations”, Inspire, May 2016, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/inspire-magazine-15.pdf; Thomas Joscelyn, “Ex-Guantanamo detainee discusses his life with Osama bin Laden,” Long War Journal, May 17, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/05/ex-guantanamo-detainee-discusses-his-life-with-osama-bin-laden.php. A few months later, AQAP published a special edition of Inspire, titled “The 9/17 Operations.” Qosi narrates the day of the 9/11 attack. He describes his and bin Laden’s joy over the collapse of the World Trade Center and their excitement while listening to the “good news” on American radio.AQAP, “The 9/17 Operations,” Inspire, Fall 2016, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/inspire-magazine-16.pdf.

AQAP released their 17th edition of the Inspire magazine in July 2017 in which Qosi praises and encourages lone wolf attacks, describing them as “new creative and destructive Lone Jihad operations, executed by men from [the United States] homeland. Men whose boots have not touched the lands of Jihad in Afghanistan or Sham and whose names have never been in the FBI or CIA black lists.”AQAP, “Train Derail Operations,” Inspire, July 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/inspire-magazine-17.pdf; Thomas Joscelyn, “AQAP publishes guide for derailing trains in the US, Europe,” Long War Journal, August 13, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/08/aqap-publishes-guide-for-derailing-trains-in-the-us-europe.php.

In January 2018, Qosi appeared in a 36-minute video, titled “Secrets, its Dangers and the Departure of the Best of Us,” where he lectures on the importance of exercising caution and maintaining operational security. The propaganda video also features current AQAP leader Qasim al Raymi addressing the problem of leaked information through “spies” and cellphones that has allowed the United States to track AQAP targets and kill them in drone strikes.“New video message from al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula: ‘Secrets and Dangers and the Departure of the Best of Us’,” Jihadology, January 17, 2018, https://jihadology.net/2018/01/17/new-video-message-from-al-qaidah-in-the-arabian-peninsula-secrets-and-dangers-and-the-departure-of-the-best-of-us/; Thomas Joscelyn, “Former Guantanamo detainee warns against spilling secrets,” Long War Journal, January 19, 2018, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/former-guantanamo-detainee-warns-against-spilling-secrets-in-aqap-video.php.

On November 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program offered up to $4 million on information leading to the capture of Qosi.“U.S. State Department announces reward up to $10 million for two senior AQAP leaders,” Reuters, November 7, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-reward/u-s-state-department-announces-reward-up-to-10-million-for-two-senior-aqap-leaders-idUSKBN1XH2DY; “Wanted: Information that brings to justice,” Rewards for Justice, November 7, 2019, https://static.rewardsforjustice.net/uploads/AQAPQosiAtifPosterENG8_5x11.pdf. Following the death of AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi in a U.S. drone strike in early 2020 in Yemen’s Marib Province, Qosi was considered a possible successor for the jihadist franchise as he has been a longtime official of the leadership team that advises AQAP’s emir.Thomas Joscelyn, “White House confirms death of AQAP leader,” Long War Journal, February 6, 2020, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/02/white-house-confirms-death-of-aqap-leader.php. Although Raymi’s deputy, Khalid Batarfi, took over as the new leader, he later turned himself into Yemeni forces on October 2, 2020.“Al-Qaida Confirms Death of AQAP Leader,” Voice of America, February 23, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/al-qaida-confirms-death-aqap-leader; “Pro-ISIS Telegram Channel Alleges Al-Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Leader Khalid Batarfi Turned Himself In To Yemeni Forces In Al-Mahrah During Raid That Killed Two Key Al-Qaeda Commanders,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, October 7, 2020, https://www.memri.org/jttm/pro-isis-telegram-channel-alleges-al-qaeda-arabian-peninsula-aqap-leader-khalid-batarfi-turned. It is unreported if Qosi has assumed the role of AQAP emir.

On October 27, 2020, a federal appeals court refused to review Qosi’s 2010 war crimes conviction. His lawyers argued that Qosi’s conviction should be thrown out because the charge for which he was convicted, providing material support for terrorism, is not a war crime that could be tried by military commission. As such, they argued that the military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay had no jurisdiction to convict Qosi. The three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to hear the appeal because there was no evidence that Qosi had “authorized counsel to pursue these petitions” and did not have contact “with any attorney in this case for eight years.”Carol Rosenberg, “Court Rejects Appeal of Guantánamo Convict Who Rejoined Al Qaeda,” New York Times, October 28, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/us/politics/guantanamo-detainee-appeal.html.

 
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