Gitmo Detainee Turned Terror Commander Killed: Reports
Saeed al-Shihri had been released from Guantanamo, turned back to terror.
Sept. 10, 2012 — -- An al Qaeda terror commander, who was released from Guantanamo Bay to join an art-based "jihadi rehab" program only to return to the fight as a high-ranking member of al Qaeda's Yemen branch, has been killed, according to Yemen's state-run media.
Said al-Shihri, a Saudi national considered by the U.S. government to be the number two man in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was taken out in an airstrike along with six other militants, Yemen's Saba news agency reported today, citing security officials. The missiles were believed to have come from an American drone, according to a report by The Associated Press. DNA tests reportedly had not been done to confirm al-Shihri's death.
Al-Shihri, a "veteran jihadist," traveled to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to fight coalition troops, only to be captured weeks later, according to West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. He was sent to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he stayed for six years before being released to Saudi Arabia. There, he entered a so-called "jihadi rehab" program that attempted to turn terrorists into art students by getting them to get "negative energy out on paper," as the program's director told ABC News in 2009.
But just months after he supposedly entered the fingerpainting camp, al-Shihri reappeared in Yemen where he was suspected to have been behind a deadly bombing at the U.S. embassy there.
At the time, critics of the "jihadi rehab" program used al-Shihri as evidence that extremists would just go through the motions in order to be freed.
"They basically schmooze or con their way out of the system and then they get out," former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said in the 2009 ABC News report.
Before his release from Guantanamo, al-Shihri had told his captors that should he be freed, he would return to Saudi Arabia to work in his family's furniture store, according to detention documents posted online by The New York Times.
Since before Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011, U.S. security officials have warned that al Qaeda's regional arms -- especially AQAP -- represented a greater danger to the U.S. than the traditional "core" of the terror organization over which bin Laden presided.
Officials at the CIA, whose drone program U.S. officials say was responsible for the death of another high-profile AQAP member in April, declined to comment for this report.
ABC News' Rym Momtaz contributed to this report.
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