In the official literature, they are often referred to by their Internment Serial Numbers, the prevailing nomenclature of the GUANTANAMO BAY DETENTION CENTER (GTMO) (GITMO)!!!
They were numbers 588, 093 and 693. But before they were numbers, they were people. All thought of themselves as Allah’s fervent disciple, only to end up American prisoners of war, stashed away on the forlorn edge of Communist Cuba.
The three men had recently ended a hunger strike. They had little else in common.
Mana Shaman Allabardi al-Tabi (588) was a Saudi national who joined a religious charity called Tablighi Jamaat, which was believed to have links to Al-Qaeda. On January 17, 2002, “detainee was captured with four other individuals who were dressed in burkas trying to avoid capture” as he was leaving the Pakistani city of Bannu, on the border with Afghanistan, his Department of Defense file reads. On March 8, 2002, he was handed over to American forces and shipped to Guantánamo Bay, where he was described as “belligerent, argumentative, harassing, and very aggressive”—and useless when it came to intelligence about Al-Qaeda. He was cleared to be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.”
Yasser Talal al-Zahrani (093), also Saudi, was the son of a prominent government official. Jihad tugged at him in the early summer of 2001, when he had finished the 11th grade. “After sitting at home for approximately two months and hearing that sheiks from neighboring towns were saying jihad in Afghanistan was a religious duty, [al-Zahrani] decided to travel to Afghanistan,” his Pentagon file says. He went to Pakistan, then Afghanistan. Instead of starting his senior year of high school, he learned at a Taliban training center how to use a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a Makarov pistol. He served as “a fighter on the front lines of [the Battle of Kunduz]” during the American invasion of Afghanistan, where he was captured by the Northern Alliance. Al-Zahrani was turned over to American forces on December 29, 2001. His intelligence value was also minimal.
Ali Abdullah Ahmed (693) was a Yemeni who, according to his Department of Defense record, was “a street vendor who sold clothing…and was prompted to travel to Pakistan to receive [a religious] education upon hearing God’s calling.” He was captured at a safe house in Faisalabad that was alleged to be under the control of Abu Zubaydah, then believed to be one of Osama bin Laden’s top officers. Branded by the Pentagon as “a mid-to-high-level Al-Qaeda” operative, Ahmed arrived in Cuba on June 19, 2002. Later, government investigators realized there was “no credible information” tying him to terrorism. But this wasn’t the Palookaville slammer: If you tell the world, as the Pentagon did, that your island prison is home to “the worst of the worst,” you won’t want to advertise your errors and hyperboles. So they kept Ahmed.
June 9, 2006, all three men died of alleged suicides while in custody at GITMO.
NEWSWEEK Journalist ALEXANDER NAZARYAN chronicles the eerily suspicious events of that night and how those three men came TO LIVE AND DIE AT GITMO.