Guantanamo Bay Inmate Released, Becomes Terrorist: Still U.S. Fault?

Alissa Rubin followed up on her Thursday story on Iraqi terrorist Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi, who served three years in Guantanamo Bay and later lead suicide attacks in Mosul, in Friday's "Bomber's Final Messages Exhort Fighters Against U.S." But instead of portraying Ajmi's 2005 release as a misstep on the part of the United States, Rubin played it the other way, wondering whether it was his incarceration that transformed Ajmi into a terrorist.

The last words of a suicide bomber in Mosul were a rallying cry for Muslims to join the fight against Americans.

His taking-off point was his experience at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

In two accounts - a transcript of his conversation in a jihadist chat room and a suicide message on tape - both posted on Web sites devoted to Al Qaeda after his death, the bomber, Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi, 29, described his detention as "torture" carried out by infidels. He was in Guantánamo from 2002 to 2005.

The American military confirmed that Mr. Ajmi, a Kuwaiti, carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq last month. His relatives were the first to make public his death, and Kuwaiti newspapers reported on Thursday that he was one of three Kuwaiti suicide bombers involved in an attack in Mosul that killed several Iraqi soldiers.

As many as 36 former Guantánamo detainees have taken part in violent acts against Western targets after their release, a Defense Intelligence Agency report said. Their violent acts raise the question of whether the men should have been released, but also whether their detention radicalized them.

At the Pentagon on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was asked about the risk of former Guantánamo detainees returning to kill Americans or their allies. He said the recidivism rate was 5 to 10 percent, based on one dozen to three dozen known instances.

"So I would say that I think we do as careful a vetting job as we possibly can before releasing these people," he said at a news conference.

The American military's account of the reasons for Mr. Ajmi's detention and his behavior at Guantánamo depict a defiant, often silent prisoner, but there is no suggestion in available documents that he was involved with Al Qaeda at that time.

Mr. Ajmi's own account of his time at Guantánamo describes a man emboldened by religious devotion, who found solace in prayer and who hoped others would see his death as a righteous act.