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Released Guantanamo Detainee Killed By US Drone Strike in Afghanistan

An MQ-9 Predator drone flies in this undated file photo from drone-maker General Atomics.
An MQ-9 Predator drone flies in this undated file photo from drone-maker General Atomics.

A former Guantanamo detainee who returned to Afghanistan and allegedly was trying to recruit for ISIS has been killed by a U.S. drone strike, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Abdul Rauf and seven associates were killed Monday in southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand province by Hellfire missiles fired at their Toyota Corolla from a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

"He and his associates were targeted as they were believed to be planning an attack" on Afghan or U.S. interests, Kirby said.

Rauf, also known as "Khadim," was held as a Taliban operative at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility for several years

He was released to Kabul in 2007 and was believed to have returned to the Taliban before turning against them and declaring himself a recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) earlier this year.

Kirby acknowledged that ISIS was looking to expand beyond Syria and Iraq, but he said that Rauf's ties to ISIS were "nascent at best," and were "more aspirational than anything else."

The case of Abdul Rauf and his return to terrorism after Guantanamo has figured in the ongoing debate in Congress over President Obama's renewed push to transfer or release the remaining 122 prisoners and close the facility before he leaves office.

Opponents of closing Guantanamo have argued that the recidivism rate for Guantanamo detainees was close to 30 percent while U.S. State Department and intelligence officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the actual recidivism rate was 6.8 percent.

"The Pentagon's position is that the detainee facility should be closed," Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.

However, Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he would not be pressured by the White House to rush decisions on releases and transfers out of Guantanamo.

"Absolutely," Carter said when asked by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., whether he would resist plans to speed up the pace of releases and transfers.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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