A Taliban ‘commander’ who goaded the US in a victory speech from inside the presidential palace in Kabul was released from Guantanamo Bay after promising authorities he was returning to Afghanistan to care for his sick father, DailyMail.com can reveal.
The bearded fanatic was among a group of gun-toting fighters who staged a celebratory press conference Sunday just hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled his country amid chaotic scenes.
Experts identified him as Gholam Ruhani, a former Gitmo detainee who was accused by US officials of being a longtime security agent for the Taliban’s feared Ministry of Intelligence with close family ties to its senior figures.
Ruhani revealed to Al Jazeera on Sunday that he was incarcerated for seven years at the Cuban-based military lockup which was established nearly two decades ago to cage the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
State Department documents seen by DailyMail.com confirm that Ruhani – detainee number 3 – was one of the very first prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but record that he spent five years there, from 2002 to 2007.
Taliban commander Gholam Ruhani claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a victory speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan. DailyMail.com can reveal that he was released after promising authorities he was returning to Afghanistan to care for his sick father
State Department documents seen by DailyMail.com confirm that Ruhani was one of the very first prisoners at Guantanamo Bay(pictured) , but show that he spent five years there, from 2002 to 2007
The files also reveal that Ruhani secured his eventual freedom by telling an administrative review board that he was a ‘simple shopkeeper’ who ‘helped Americans’.
Despite being rated a medium security threat, a March 2007 document says that Ruhani continued to insist that he had never heard of Al-Qaeda before 9/11 and merely joined the Taliban as a ‘survival necessity’.
He claimed his ‘only wish’ was to return to Afghanistan and ‘assist his father, who is sick, in operating the family appliance store in Kabul.’
According to Ruhani’s Gitmo file he was born in 1975, grew up in Ghazni, southeastern Afghanistan, before being sent to Iran by his parents to avoid the Afghan-Soviet war.
He returned home in 1992 and worked at his father’s business cleaning and stocking shelves before the Taliban seized the city four years later.
US officials believe Ruhani originally decided to join the Ministry of Intelligence to avoid being drafted for combat operations and was part of a security detail patrolling the streets of Kabul.
He worked there for four years, carrying a pistol and investigating supposed ‘crimes’, until he was arrested in 2001 alongside his brother-in-law, Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence.
According to an intelligence assessment, the pair attended a meeting with American officials to ‘identify the location of Mullah Muhammad Omar’, the notorious one-eye founder of the Taliban whose decision to provide safe-haven for Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
State Department documents reveal that Ruhani’ was released after promising authorities he was returning to Afghanistan to care for his sick father. Ruhani secured his freedom by telling an administrative review board that he was a ‘simple shopkeeper’ who ‘helped Americans’
‘While detainee attended the meeting, one of the ‘Americans’ exited the house, reentered with American soldiers, and arrested all of the Afghans. Detainee and those arrested were taken to Bagram Airbase, AF, and placed in US custody,’ the documents state.
While deciding whether or not Ruhani should be released, US officials agreed that he had downplayed his rank and high-level connections in the Taliban.
He was also described as a ‘threat to the US, it’s interests and allies’ who would ‘probably join ACM (Anti-Coalition Militia) groups dedicated to attacking US and coalition forces in Afghanistan if released.’
Elsewhere in Ruhani’s file analysts listed the reasons put forward for his release and analyzed his behavior behind bars.
He committed 15 disciplinary infractions including threatening guards and stuffing his flip flops down the sink but never committed any violence.
Listing factors that favored his release, the report states: ‘The detainee denies any prior knowledge of the attacks on 11 September 2001 and claims to have no personal knowledge of al Qaida or its operatives.
‘The detainee had never heard of al Qaida until the Americans started bombing in Afghanistan. The detainee thinks Usama bin Laden brought war to Afghanistan.
‘The detainee claims to be no more than a simple shopkeeper who helped Americans. The detainee stated that his only wish was to return to Afghanistan and assist his father, who is sick, in operating the family appliance store in Kabul.
Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos. Ruhani is seen seated on the right
The militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan after the country’s president joined thousands of Afghan nationals in a mass exodus
The militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan after the country’s president joined thousands of Afghan nationals in a mass exodus. Ruhani is circled
‘The detainee explained that when he identified the head of Taliban intelligence as his brother-in-law that it was a lie to shut up the interrogator.
‘The detainee explained that his work in the security office was simply to perform manual labor and drive different people in the office to their destinations.
‘The detainee denied any intelligence collecting activities during his work with the Taliban. The detainee stated that he worked for the people, not the Taliban.
‘The detainee claims that his involvement with the Taliban should not be viewed as synonymous to the Taliban’s ideology. It became a matter of political and survival necessity.’
Ruhani presented his case to the review board who recommended in January 2007 that he should be transferred out of Department of Defense control.
According to the New York Times he was repatriated alongside Mullah Abdul Zakir, a key Taliban leader who was moved to an Afghani jail but quickly released and later became a top military leader.
Ruhani’s former lawyer, Rebecca Dick, said she was able to confirm her client had left Gitmo but told the Times she never spoke with him again and had no idea where he went.
That question was finally answered this weekend when Ruhani and his militia cohorts made themselves comfortable behind President Ghani’s abandoned desk to declare the reinstatement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
A C-17 jet carrying 640 Afghan refugees that left Kabul on Sunday night as the Taliban claimed the city. The flight landed in Qatar. The refugees ran up the half-open ramp while US forces were preparing for take-off, according to an unnamed defense official cited by Defense One on Monday. At least one other C-17 has departed the area
Footage from Hamad Karzai airport showed hundreds of people running alongside – and in front of – a US Air Force plane preparing to take off
Ruhani was one of several militants who recited the Koran then briefly took turns to answer questions from Al Jazeera, telling the broadcaster he was arrested in 2001 and taken to Gitmo, according to reports.
A Taliban spokesman also told the network: ‘We assure everyone that we will provide safety for citizens and diplomatic missions.
‘We are ready to have a dialogue with all Afghan figures and will guarantee them the necessary protection.’
The statement did little to quell panic across Kabul as residents fearing a return of the Taliban’s notorious hardline Islamic regime flocked to the international airport to try to escape.
The US opened its much-criticized military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in the aftermath of 9/11 to hold ‘enemy combatants’ accused of ties to bin Laden and the Taliban.
The notorious lockup is still operational, housing around 40 detainees, despite Barack Obama promising to shut it down after he became president in January 2009.