Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah

Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah is a Saudi citizen who, in 2000, deserted the military to wage jihad with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He was captured by Pakistani forces, transferred to U.S. custody, and sent to Guantanamo January 14, 2002.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah. Following his repatriation to Saudi Arabia, he took part in the government’s de-radicalization program but later escaped government monitoring to become a commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).Thomas Joscelyn, “State Department designates former Gitmo detainee turned AQAP commander,” Long War Journal, June 16, 201, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/06/state_department_des.php;
“Terrorist Designations of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Operative Othman Al-Ghamdi,” U.S Department of State, June 16, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/166288.htm.

Omairah spent his early career as a soldier in the Saudi military. He deserted the military in 2000 and worked in steel and iron construction in Jeddah.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

In the summer of 2001, Omairah traveled to Mecca to visit the Masjid al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque. His taxi driver, Ehmoud Al-Noufait, was a former Saudi soldier who had become a recruiter and facilitator for al-Qaeda. He told Omairah “about the sufferings of Muslims in Chechnya,” and that he had fought in the jihad in Kashmir. Noufait showed Omairah videotapes about Chechnya, and educated him on routes that foreign fighters took to reach the region.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

After Omairah expressed interest in joining the ranks of al-Qaeda, Noufait provided Omairah with a new passport, purchased his plane tickets, and told him how to enter Afghanistan.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

Omairah later told the Department of Defense’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF) he had trained at the al-Farouq training camp from October to November 2001.  In a 2010 article in AQAP’s Inspire magazine, Omairah said he arrived at the camp prior to 9/11 to train in small arms, and received training from known al-Qaeda explosives trainer Abd al Rahman al Muhajir.Thomas Joscelyn, “State Department designates former Gitmo detainee turned AQAP commander,” Long War Journal, June 16, 201, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/06/state_department_des.php.

According to Omairah’s account, Osama bin Laden visited al-Farouq training camp while Omairah was there, told the training group that some of their “brothers” were about to strike America, and asked them to pray for them.Thomas Joscelyn, “State Department designates former Gitmo detainee turned AQAP commander,” Long War Journal, June 16, 201, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/06/state_department_des.php.

Following his training, Omairah was captured by Pakistani police near the Afghan-Pakistani border in late 2001. When he was detained, Omairah claimed to be a Yemeni named Ali Ahmed Salih Ba’awdah. He continued providing the Pakistani authorities with this alias until they confirmed his true identity with the Yemeni government. Pakistani authorities transferred Omairah to U.S. custody on December 31, 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo on January 14, 2002.Thomas Joscelyn, “State Department designates former Gitmo detainee turned AQAP commander,” Long War Journal, June 16, 201, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/06/state_department_des.php;
“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

Omairah also attempted to operate under an alias, and as a Yemeni citizen, while at Guantanamo. By May 2002, the JTF assessed that he was being deceitful.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

Omairah told the JTF that he hated America and supported all fatwas that called for Americans to leave the Arabian Peninsula. He was hostile toward the prison guards and interrogators, saying that he was keeping potentially valuable intelligence to himself. Omairah believed that if he revealed valuable information he would remain imprisoned at Guantanamo or else be turned over to his home country of Saudi Arabia, where he would most likely be imprisoned or severely punished for deserting the military. According to an assessment by the JTF, Omairah preferred to remain at Guantanamo.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

In March 2005, the JTF assessed Omairah as a medium risk and of low intelligence value, and recommended that he remain detained under DoD control. However, on June 6, 2005, the JTF changed its recommendation and Omairah was repatriated to Saudi Arabia on June 24, 2006, and enrolled in Care.“The Guantanamo Docket: Othman Ahmed Othman al Omairah: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 9, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/184-othman-ahmed-othman-al-omairah.

Following the de-radicalization program, Omairah fled Saudi Arabia and joined AQAP as an operational commander and key fundraiser for the group. By early 2009, Omairah had become one of 11 former Guantanamo detainees on the Saudi’s most wanted terrorists list. In May 2010, he was featured in an AQAP propaganda video alongside Qasim al-Raymi, the chief military commander of AQAP, and Fahd al-Quso, an al-Qaeda operative who took part in the USS Cole bombing.“Terrorist Designations of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Operative Othman Al-Ghamdi,” U.S Department of State, June 16, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/166288.htm;
Thomas Joscelyn, “State Department designates former Gitmo detainee turned AQAP commander,” Long War Journal, June 16, 201, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/06/state_department_des.php.

A profile of Omairah’s career in terrorism appeared in the October 2010 issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine. The article discussed his time spent in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda, and his training in al-Farouq where he met bin Laden. In response to the 9/11 attacks, Omairah said: “We couldn’t believe it at first. We had humiliated America and struck it on its soil using its own planes as weapons. We damaged its economy and weakened its strength and we had them drink from the same cup they have been having our ummah [global Muslim community] drink from for years.”Thomas Joscelyn, “State Department designates former Gitmo detainee turned AQAP commander,” Long War Journal, June 16, 201, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/06/state_department_des.php.

On June 16, 2011, the U.S. government designated Omairah, under the alias “Othman al-Ghamdi,” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. The designation cited Omairah’s involvement in fundraising and facilitating AQAP operations. That same day, the United Nations 1267 Committee placed Omairah on its Consolidated List, which “require[s] all UN Member States to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against this individual.” At some point, Omairah was also added to the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program.“Terrorist Designations of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Operative Othman Al-Ghamdi,” U.S Department of State, June 16, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/166288.htm;
“Yemen: Reported US Covert Actions 2016,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, March 7, 2016, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/drone-war/data/yemen-reported-us-covert-actions-2016.

According to the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, Omairah’s name was removed from the Rewards for Justice Program between September 2015 and January 2016—possibly signifying his death. When explaining the removal, the U.S. government simply told the Bureau for Investigative Journalism that Omairah no longer posed “a threat to US persons or interests.”“Yemen: Reported US Covert Actions 2016,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, March 7, 2016, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/drone-war/data/yemen-reported-us-covert-actions-2016.

United States

The U.S. Department of State designated “Othman al-Ghamdi” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on June 16, 2011.“Terrorist Designations of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Operative Othman Al-Ghamdi,” U.S Department of State, June 16, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/166288.htm.

United Nations

The United Nations 1267 Committee placed “Othman al-Ghamdi” on its Consolidated List on June 16, 2011.“Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee Adds Name of One Individual to Its Consolidated List, Amends One Entry,” United Nations, June 16, 2011, http://www.un.org/press/en/2011/sc10283.doc.htm.

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