The two detainees of Yemeni origin transferred to Ghana on Wednesday from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba by the United States government are ‘terrorists’ with Al Qaeda ties, it has been reported.
US-based Fox News reported Wednesday that Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby are not “taxi drivers and cooks”, but people with terrorism background.
The two are among 17 detainees expected to be transferred from the prison camp.
According to the report, Bin Atef is an admitted member of the Taliban and fought for Usama bin Laden, while Al-Dhuby trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
The report added that both detainees had stayed at the Guantanamo Bay for 14 years.
These disclosures appear to contravene claims by Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration that both detainees had been cleared of any terrorism-related links by the US authorities and did not pose any danger to Ghana.
“When the request was made to us by the United States government, we asked our ambassador, General Smith to also go and assess the situation for us and to make recommendations."
“He had the opportunity to go to Guantanamo, visited persons who they were requesting us to take and he was the one who made the recommendations to us,” the Foreign Affairs Minister, Madam Hannah Tetteh told the media Wednesday.
But the idea that two are free of terrorism tendencies is disputed by the Fox news report, which noted that the US government had earlier determined that bin Atef was a high risk to the US and to American interests, while Al-Dhuby posed a medium risk.
The decision to host the detainees in Ghana has provoked a firestorm of controversy and outrage among Ghanaians, with many expressing fear that the move would undermine Ghana’s internal security and expose the country to attacks from religious extremists.
An International Relations expert, Professor Keith Bluwey, told Accra-based Starr FM Thursday that the decision was “reckless” and “dangerous”, adding that the government was only interested in the financial benefits that it may derive from it.
“It is not in our interest, these people are not ordinary refugees who are being found places of rest, these are criminals, terrorists to the core, Osama Bin Laden activists and they should have no place in Ghana,’ he said.
On social media, the decision has been greeted by a mixture of anger, disbelief and fear.
Nana Awere Damoah, a writer and active voice in the Ghanaian social media sphere, remarked on Facebook: “I just listened to a playback of the BBC report on the Guantanamo detainees. Ghana says their activities will be monitored. Monitored? We are able to monitor anything in this country?”
A lecturer, Dr Llyod Amoah, said: “I listened to Hannah [Tetteh] on Citi FM yesterday on Ghana as the destination for some refugees. I was sad and scared. Her tone was one of total abandon and deferment to the US government's view on the Gitmo dudes.
"How can Ghana's position on these issues be based if I understand her on demonstrating we are an upstanding member of the international community and US intelligence and security info? Or she was admitting Ghana is just a weak, hollowed out nation with no national interests to defend anymore? Is Madam fit for the post?”
Weighing in on the development, the President of Imani Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, described the move as “an unwise decision”, adding that Foreign Minister must resign as a consequence.
“This is a very unwise decision and for the foreign minister to tell us this when these individuals were enplaning to Ghana is disrespectful and she must resign,” he said.