- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

British press reports that a released former Guantanamo detainee helped carry out a deadly suicide attack against an Iraqi army outpost near Mosul are sparking uncomfortable questions for both the British and U.S. governments.

U.S. military officials in Iraq said Wednesday they could not confirm multiple media accounts that British national Ronald Fiddler, an Islamic State member who took part in the suicide attack on an Iraqi army outpost in Mosul, was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay released after lobbying by London in 2004.

Mr. Fiddler was reportedly taken captive in Pakistan in 2001, and the London Daily Mail said he received a 1 million pound compensation payment from the British government after his release.

Mr. Fiddler, also known as Jamal al-Harith and Abu-Zakariya al-Britani, videotaped himself preparing and carrying out the suicide car attack outside the Iraqi base in Tal Gaysum in southwest Mosul. The tape began circulating across the terror group’s online and social media channels on Tuesday.

“We received the same reports that you did and we asked those questions, but we’re unable to confirm at this point that that individual was a Gitmo detainee,” Col. John Dorrian, the top U.S. spokesman in Iraq, said Wednesday.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed his role in Mr. Fiddler’s release but angrily rejected other accusations in the Daily Mail story in a statement Wednesday.

He said the compensation payment was actually made by the Conservative-led government in 2010, long after he was out of power.

He also defended his government’s campaign to get British Guantanamo detainees released, at a time when many in Britain objected to the U.S. detainee facility.

“The fact is that this was always a very difficult situation where any government would have to balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security, and we were likely to be attacked whatever course we took,” Mr. Blair said in his statement.

After his return to the U.K. in 2004, Mr. Fiddler reportedly joined Islamic State in 2014, crossing into Syria from Turkey, according to the BBC.

His return to the battlefield has provided fodder for those who fought former President Obama’s campaign to close Guantanamo. President Trump has vowed to keep the facility open and fill it with “some bad dudes.”

The White House said Mr. Trump was still weighing his options on the facility.

“We don’t telegraph what we’re going to do. I think [President Trump] has made very clear, though, that he believes that Guantanamo Bay does serve a very, very healthy purpose in our national security,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday.

Mr. Obama had promised to shutter the facility set up under President George W. Bush, saying it was serving as a recruiting tool for Islamic State and other jihadi groups — an argument many critics rejected.

During his tenure, Mr. Obama facilitated the transfer of nearly 200 detainees to various countries across the globe, with 41 detainees left under U.S. custody by the time Mr. Trump entered the White House last month.

Mr. Fiddler’s family said Wednesday his radicalization and eventual membership with Islamic State were directly tied to his experiences inside Guantanamo.

Mr. Fiddler, who changed his name to Jamal al-Harith after converting to Islam in 1992, was “a peaceful and gentle person,” family members told the British tabloid The Sun in a statement.

“Whatever he may or may not have done since then, they believe from their own experience he was utterly changed by the physical and mental cruelty and the inhuman treatment he endured for two years at Guantanamo,” they said.

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