A Saudi man released from Guantanamo after spending nearly six years inside the U.S. prison camp is now the No. 2 of Yemen's al-Qaida branch, according to a purported Internet statement from the terror network.
The announcement, made this week on a Web site commonly used by militants, came as President Barack Obama ordered the detention facility closed within a year. Many of the remaining detainees are from Yemen, which has long posed a vexing terrorism problem for the U.S.
The terror group's Yemen branch known as "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula" said the man, identified as Said Ali al-Shihri, returned to his home in Saudi Arabia after his release from Guantanamo about a year ago and from there went to Yemen, which is Osama bin Laden's ancestral home.
"He managed to leave the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia) and join his brothers in al-Qaida," the statement said.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the executive order Obama signed Thursday to close the facility as "very short on specifics."
He said there are indications that as many as 10 percent of the men released from Guantanamo are "back on the battlefield. They are attacking American troops."
Al-Shihri allegedly traveled to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, provided money to other fighters and trained in urban warfare at a camp north of Kabul, according to a summary of the evidence against him from U.S. military review panels at Guantanamo.
He also was accused of meeting extremists in Iran and briefing them on how to enter Afghanistan, according to the documents.
Al-Shihri, however, said he traveled to Iran to buy carpets. He said he felt bin Laden had no business representing Islam, denied any links to terrorism and expressed interest in rejoining his family.