9 Oct 2015

Jamal Al-Harith: Guantanamo detainee flees to Syria

A British terror suspect released from Guantanamo Bay after lobbying by the British Government is with the so-called Islamic State in Syria, Channel 4 News can reveal.

Muslim convert Jamal al-Harith was freed from the infamous US detention centre in 2004 after then-Home Secretary David Blunkett campaigned for his release.

But we can reveal, despite his previous detention, he was able to leave the UK 18 months ago and join the militant Islamic State in Syria.

His journey to join Isis can be revealed by Channel 4 News following the escape from ISIS-controlled Syria last month by British mother Shukee Begum and her five children.

We can now disclose that the Ms Begum, 33, is married to al-Harith, and had flown to Syria with her children to try to persuade the Jihadi to come back.

However, her attempts to bring him back to the UK failed, and she endured a ten-month ordeal being passed between hostages and rebel groups as she tried to escape.

She only reached safety last month when she was rescued by al Qaeda linked group Al Nusra.

Last night questions were raised as to how former Guantanamo detainee al-Harith was able to leave the UK to join ISIS, and how his wife was also able to follow him.

It also brings into doubt the Government’s ability to effectively monitor terror suspects.

It is not known if any limits were placed on his travel, such as removing his passport.

Read more: The British mother and children who escaped Isis

At the time of al-Harith’s release from Guantanamo Bay, then-Home Secretary David Blunkett, said: “No one who is returned…will actually be a threat to the security of the British people.”

After his detention al-Harith claimed he was tortured at Guantanamo bay.

In an interview with a national newspaper after his release he said: “It was very, very hard times, but I tried to think about nothing but survival.”

The muslim convert began life as Ronald Fiddler before turning to Islam in the 1990s and changing his name to Jamal Udeen Al-Harith.

On 2 October 2001 he travelled to the city of Quetta, in Pakistan, on what he claimed was a religious holiday.

Invasion begins

A few day later the US invasion of neighboring Afghanistan began.He claimed he tried to escape to Iran but was arrested at the border and handed over to the Taliban.

They locked him up and accused him of being a British spy, according to al-Harith.

A few months later he was found in a Taliban jail by US special forces.

But he wasn’t sent back to the UK. Instead he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

A US Defense department document leaked by Wikileaks shows al-Harith was originally detained because “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”.

It recommended he be “considered for release” but nine months later new information led them to believe he was “probably involved in a former terrorist attack against the U.S”.

He was reassessed as being “affiliated with al-Qaeda” and considered a “high threat to the US.”Al-Harith was released on 9 March 2004 after more than two-years, alongside The Tipton Three and one other British citizen.

They were repatriated to England and the next day released by British authorities without charge.In 2004 it was reported that al-Harith and three other detainees launched a legal action against the US government each demanding $10 million – at the time £5.4 million.