A Taliban commander who helped seize the Afghan presidential palace spent nearly 6 years at Guantanamo, where he told a guard ‘we will get you on the outside’

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Gholam Ruhani
Gholam Ruhani, circled, is seen at the Afghan presidential palace with other members of the Taliban. Zabi Karimi/AP
  • Gholam Ruhani was filmed celebrating at the Afghan presidential palace on Sunday.

  • He spent 8 years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay before being released in 2007.

  • According to his prison record, Ruhani once told a guard: “We will get you on the outside.”

  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of the Taliban fighters filmed celebrating the capture of Kabul at the Afghan presidential palace on Sunday has been identified as a former Guantanamo Bay prison inmate, who once told a guard there: “We will get you on the outside,” according to prison records published by The New York Times.

In a victory speech, Gholam Ruhani had said that he was held at Guantanamo for nearly eight years.

In reality, Ruhani spent nearly six years at the American-run detention center in Cuba, according to records published by The Times in June.

The records show that Ruhani was one of the first Taliban fighters to be captured by the US after the September 11, 2001, attacks, entering the prison on the first day it opened in January 2002. He was repatriated to Afghanistan in December 2007, also under President George W. Bush’s administration.

Officials said Ruhani posed a threat to US if released

In an assessment before he was released, Pentagon officials said that Ruhani posed a “medium” threat to the US, since he had family in “anti-coalition militia entities,” and would likely join such groups if released and take part in attacks against US forces in Afghanistan.

The assessment included details about Ruhani’s conduct in prison, saying his “overall behavior has been complaint and non-hostile toward the guard force and staff.”

However, it was also noted that he threatened a guard in April 2005, saying: “We will get you on the outside.”

According to a summary of evidence against Ruhani, included in the Times documents, he worked for the Taliban’s Ministry of Intelligence. He was captured in December 2001, during a meeting between the Taliban and Americans.

Over the years he was imprisoned at Guantanamo, Ruhani downplayed his role in the Taliban and refuted some of the evidence the Americans had on him, in interviews and statements to US authorities.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Ruhani claimed to be a ‘simple shopkeeper’

According to his records, Ruhani said that when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s, he was forced to join the group, which conscripted all young men. He said he went for bureaucratic job because he was “scared of fighting” and didn’t want to die on the battlefield.

He also said the department he worked at was not an intelligence agency but a local police department, and that he only performed menial tasks like gardening and janitorial work, per the records.

Ruhani said he was only required to “check in” to his Taliban job in Kabul every 10 to 15 days, and mainly worked at his family’s appliance store in his hometown of Ghazni, more than 90 miles away. He described himself as a “simple shopkeeper.”

He said he had never heard of al-Qaeda until 9/11 and blamed Osama bin Laden for bringing the war to Afghanistan, the records said.

Ruhani said he quit the Taliban after the attacks, and was no longer associated with the group when he was asked by an acquaintance to act as an interpreter for the meeting between the Taliban and the Americans where he was captured in 2001.

“I thought it was a friendly meeting of which I believed I was on the Americans’ side,” Ruhani said in August 2004.

While in Guantanamo, he also told US officials that he wanted to return to Afghanistan so he could help his sick father run their store.

The Times tried to track down Ruhani and the other 19 men first imprisoned at Guantanamo for a story in March, but said he and three others were unable to be located. Ruhani’s former lawyer told the outlet that Ruhani cut off contact as soon as he returned to Afghanistan.

Read the original article on Business Insider



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