Taliban commander released from Guantanamo Bay after claiming he was a simple shopkeeper

Kabul: People chase and hang onto military plane at airport

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The commander, Gholam Ruhani, who is the former detainee, gave a taunting victory speech from Kabul’s Presidential palace recently as Taliban troops stormed the capital city.

The celebratory press conference, featuring the commander and a group of fellow extremists, took place on Sunday inside the palace, just hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled his country after the rapid takeover.

Mr Ruhani spent five years at Guantanamo Bay, the military prison based in Cuba meant to detain the world’s most dangerous terrorists.

His sentence, which was served from 2002 to 2007, is a result of him being accused by US officials of being a longtime security agent for the Taliban’s feared Ministry of Intelligence. Mr Ruhani is said to have close family ties to its senior figures.

In an interview with TV station Al Jazeera, the extremist revealed that he was incarcerated for seven years at the Cuban-based military prison.

Records acquired by the Daily Mail confirm that the militant was one of the first prisoners held there, but that he only served a five-year sentence in the prison, which still houses around 40 detainees today.

These documents also highlight that Ruhani was able to secure freedom by telling an administrative review board that he was a “simple shopkeeper” who “helped Americans”.

A document dating from March 2007, shows that Ruhani claimed to have no knowledge of Al-Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks, and that he joined the Taliban as a “survival necessity”.

In a segment listing reasons in favour of his release, a statement reads: “’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 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 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 Islamic militant claimed his “only wish” was to assist his “sick” father by returning to Afghanistan to help operate “the family appliance store in Kabul”.

According to his Guantanamo Bay files, the jihadist worked at his father’s business cleaning and stocking shelves, in 1992, before the Taliban seized control of the city four years later.

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According to US officials, the commander is believed to have joined the Ministry of Intelligence in an attempt to avoid being drafted for combat operations.

His role for four years within the ministry was part of a security detail patrolling the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.

In this position he touted a pistol, and investigated supposed “crimes”, and then was arrested in 2001 alongside Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence, who is also his brother-in-law.

While detained at Guantanamo Bay, Mr Ruhani acquired 15 disciplinary infractions including threatening guards but never committed any violence.

Further statements that supported the commander’s release included that “his involvement with the Taliban should not be viewed as synonymous to the Taliban’s ideology” and instead was “a matter of political and survival necessity”.

In January 2007, his case was presented to a review board that recommended the jihadist should be transferred out of Department of Defense control.

Mr Ruhani was among those pictured behind the abandoned desk of President Ghani this week, as Taliban fighters declared the reinstatement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Residents of Kabul fear the Taliban leadership and the return to their hardline Islamic regime, with many attempting to flee on a small number of flights leaving the capital city’s airport.

Hundreds of people were visible running alongside and in front of the planes that were due to take off in an attempt to escape the chaos.

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