from The Counter Terrorism Blog
By James Gordon Meek
May 18, 2009
Over the weekend, the Obama administration's ambitious plan to resettle a small group of Guantanamo Bay detainees in the Virginia suburbs of Washington ran into a wall. Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Jim Webb said "the answer is no" to the proposal that the former enemy combatants - ethnic Turks from China called Uyghurs - will live in Fairfax, Va.
Up 'til then, the debate over the Uyghurs' fate had been mostly down partisan lines, with Republicans led by Rep. Frank Wolf complaining loudly that no former Gitmo inmates should be incarcerated, put on trial or released inside the U.S. With Virginia Democrat Webb unexpectedly becoming an obstacle, Obama's "contingency operations" are now in peril.
I've also reported in the New York Daily News many senior counterterror officials believe the half-dozen Uyghurs eyed for release in Virginia have troubling ties to an Al Qaeda-affiliated terror group, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), also known as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. While few officials worry that the Uyghurs will form a cell or commit future acts of terrorism, they view the precautions they have been readying as a big - though manageable - hassle.
"We'll have 24-7 coverage up on them for years," one top U.S. security official told me. "It's extremely labor-intensive. But if we don't do it, we'll be called idiots if anything bad happens."
So why are lawmakers and counterterror officials fretting about the Uyghurs?
The Gitmo group were mostly nabbed fleeing a TIP terror training camp in eastern Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion following 9/11. Their defense lawyers insist the detainees have gotten the "terrorist" rap by the Communist Chinese government, which oppresses Uyghurs.
But we reported in The News today that the TIP, who ran the Afghan camp, released a jihad video last month in which they praised Al Qaeda-in-Iraq and the Uyghurs' former Afghan hosts, the Taliban. The video was released through an Al Qaeda-affiliated Web site, Al-Fajr, and includes clips showing "mujahadeen brothers" blowing up U.S. military Humvees. The Uyghur jihadis "will cause China to experience what America experienced in Iraq and in Afghanistan," a narrator promises, according to a SITE Intelligence Group translation.
It also probably didn't help when Obama's Treasury Department designated the group's leader, Abdul Haq, as "a member of Al Qaeda's Shura Council" on Apr. 20.
TIP's praise for Al Qaeda in its video, "Persistence and Preparation for Jihad in the Cause of Allah," was in some way payback to Osama Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has mentioned the Uyghurs' plight in China's East Turkistan region five times in his tapes since 2005, according to IntelCenter. East Turkistan has been included in the context of major jihad struggles Zawahiri discussed, such as Somalia and Chechnya.
On Feb. 22, after excerpts of the forthcoming TIP video began appearing online, Zawahiri released a taped rant that included criticism of the United Nations, which has placed the Uyghur terror group on its list of designated terrorists. He said showing "respect for the principles of the United Nations basically means ruling by other than Shari'ah" and is tantamount to blessing UN-member states' oppression of Muslims, including "China’s control over East Turkistan."
Aside from the growing political opposition to relocating the Uyghurs from Gitmo to a Washington suburb, the biggest roadblock may be the detainees themselves. Multiple sources confirm that some do not even want to live in America. And since no other country will accept them, "the question then becomes, can we force them to leave Cuba?" wondered a U.S. counterterror official.
Click to go to the article
Monday's HOT MIC
24 minutes ago