News about the acceptance of hardcore terrorists deported by the United States from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Ghana has incurred the wrath of the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG).
The Council said in a statement yesterday that the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government should not hesitate to return Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby to the US because they are a threat to the people of Ghana.
The Pentagon on Wednesday announced that two Guantanamo Bay inmates with Al Qaeda ties were being sent to Ghana – the first of a batch of 17 detainees expected to be transferred from the prison camp – and the government of Ghana later issued a statement confirming that the two terrorists were in Ghana.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, who were held for more than 13 years at the detention facility near Cuba, are in Ghana for a two-year stay as part of a deal reached between the United States of America and the Mahama-led government.
In a statement signed by the General Secretary of the CCG, Rev. Dr. Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, it said it had “observed with grave concern the lamentations and fears being expressed by most Ghanaians since news broke about the relocation of two Guantanamo Bay inmates with Al-Qaeda ties to Ghana.”
It continued, “As a Council, we associate with the uncertainties and fears this issue has generated among our people, and requests that government should consider immediate recession of the decision and relocate the inmates outside the country.
“The non-engagement of civil society and other stakeholders on such sensitive security issue that affects the common good of the nation has put all of us at risk as the ordinary people don’t know what is required of them in the current potential security threat. In fact, the whole process lacks transparency.
“It will be recalled that in 2007, the United States (US) government wanted to establish its African Command (AFRICOM) in Ghana and most Ghanaians and African countries kicked against it.
“The admission of the Guantanamo inmates into Ghana is no different from setting up an AFRICOM in Ghana.”
“We are of the strongest view that the inadequate public consultation and broader consensus building by government is exposing our nation and the entire sub-region to terrorist attack, and must be reversed,” the statement warned.
The Council quoted Fox News as saying Bin Atef “is an admitted member of the Taliban and fought for Osama bin Laden, while [the other] Al-Dhuby, trained with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan,” and that “the two inmates [who have spent close to 14 years in prison] are the first of a group of 17 detainees expected to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay that includes ‘multiple bad guys’ and ‘Al Qaeda followers.’”
The Council said there are enough evidences “for us to believe that these inmates have Al-Qaeda ties and puts all of us at risk.”
The CCG wants the government to tell the people “who is funding their stay in Ghana” and whether their families will be allowed to visit them (terrorists) in the country.
Furthermore, the Christian Council wants to know if they are going to have any public interactions. “Are they going to be camped, restricted or reintegrated into the society as refugees?”it probed.
Also the Council wants to know whether Ghanaians have “been properly educated on public safety and security consciousness in the wake of terrorism,” and whether Ghana has “what it takes to detect and deal with any threat of terrorism.
“We are very much aware that Ghana belongs to a community of nations, which requires her to support international humanitarian efforts such as the provision of assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
“However, the case of the Guantanamo inmates is entirely different and is not in our national interest. It is our hope and prayer that the president will listen to the lamentations of Ghanaians and quickly relocate the inmates.”
Bin Atef, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket, was born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia and fought with Osama Bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade and was an admitted member of the Taliban. He was captured in Afghanistan and transferred to US custody about January 2002, after engaging in combat against the American-led coalition.
Like Bin Atef, Salih Al-Dhuby was born in Saudi Arabia and claims Yemeni citizenship, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket. The suspected Al-Qaida member was born in 1981 and was captured by Afghan forces in December 2001 following an explosion near Tora Bora. He’s been held in Guantanamo since May 2002.
The decision by the NDC government to accept the detainees has sparked public outcry as many security experts are saying that the government’s decision could open up the country to high-profile security threats.
By William Yaw Owusu