|Ammar Al Baluchi|
August 29, 1977|
Kuwait City, Kuwait
|Detained at||CIA black sites, Guantanamo|
Aafia Siddiqui (m. 2003)
Ammar Al-Baluchi (Arabic: عمار البلوشي, ʿAmmār Al-Balūshī; also transliterated as Amar Al-Balochi, born Ali Abdul Aziz Ali) is a Pakistani citizen in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Charges against him include "facilitating the 9/11 attackers, acting as a courier for Osama bin Laden and plotting to crash a plane packed with explosives into the U.S. consulate in Karachi."
Member of the same al-Baluchi clan as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (KSM) and Ramzi Yousef, U.S. officials state that he was a "key Lieutenant" of his uncle KSM who assisted KSM in the execution of the September 11 attacks, and that he told investigators that he had sought help in al-Qaeda's efforts to develop biological weapons to use against its enemies.
He reportedly married and then divorced Aafia Siddiqui, the celebrated Pakistani militant and scientist convicted of shooting at US soldiers and incarcerated in the United States.
Ammar al-Baluchi was born in Kuwait City, Kuwait, and is the maternal nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (organizer of the 9/11 attacks) and cousin of Ramzi Yousef, the organizer of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The extended family of al-Baluchi is ethnically Baluchi and originally from Balochistan. The family patriarch and his brother were lay Deobandi preachers. They moved the family to Kuwait in the 1960s.
Baluchi grew up in Kuwait but spent most of teenage years in Iranian Baluchistan, but is a citizen of Pakistan. Trained as a computer technician, he dressed in Western clothes and "introduced himself as a businessman", but had been "groomed ... since boyhood" by his cousins and uncles "to join their clandestine war," according to journalist Debra Scroggins. According to a U.S. government biography, his "chief mentor" was his cousin and 1993 World Trade Center bombing orchestrator Ramzi Yousef, "who taught him in the early 1990s in Iran about the important of war against the West."
He is fluent in English and worked at Mohammed's honey-processing company in Karachi for a while before being hired in 1998 as a computer technician for Modern Electronics Corporation in Dubai. According to some evidence given at the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he was "very open-minded and western-oriented", while his ex-wife told investigators he was "a very strict Muslim" who opposed his wife's leaving the home.
Career in jihad
Preparation for 9/11
According to U.S. officials, the majority of money that came to the Saudi hijackers for the September 11 attacks was transferred through Baluchi and Mustafa al-Hawsawi. The 9/11 Commission reported that he "helped them with plane tickets, traveler's checks, and hotel reservations", and "taught them about everyday aspects of life in the West, such as purchasing clothes and ordering food". In his defence, Baluchi claims that he often helped people in Dubai with such things to supplement his income, and he had no way of knowing whether any of them were criminals.
On October 10, 1998, Baluchi used his passport to open a bank account with the Emirates Bank International, using the name "Ali" based on his kunya name Ibn Abdulaziz Ali and listing his employer's address with PO box 16958, Jebel Ali, Dubai.
He was then introduced to Marwan al-Shehhi by his uncle, and Shehhi allegedly asked him to help transfer money from Shehhi's company in Dubai to his company in the United States, ostensibly to help avoid banking fees if he transferred the money himself.
In January 2000, an order using Shehhi's credit card had a Boeing 747-400 flight simulator program, a Boeing 767 flight deck video, and some flight attendant literature and flight manuals shipped to Baluchi's work address. Baluchi then shipped them to his uncle to pass onto Shehhi.
On April 18, Baluchi sent a wire transfer of $5000 to Adel Rafeea, the administrator of the Islamic Center of San Diego, from the Wall Street Exchange Centre in Dubai, using his PO Box, passport and listing his phone number as 0506745651. Rafeaa later claimed that Nawaf al-Hazmi had asked him to accept the money on his behalf.
Tracing the calls made to Baluchi's phone number, authorities discovered that he had received 16 calls from June 28–30 from a pre-paid Voicestream cellphone purchased in Manhattan on June 4. The phone was deactivated on July 11, and authorities allege it belonged to Atta, while Baluchi insisted that he only ever spoke with Shehhi, who had hired him. Around this time, Baluchi complained to Mohammed that he couldn't do all this additional work himself, and his uncle told him that Mustafa al-Hawsawi would co-ordinate with him to act as an assistant.
On June 29, a man named "Isam Mansur" wired $5000 to the Western Union at 1440 Broadway in New York, where Shehhi picked it up. This is alleged to have been Baluchi, since two later direct payments into Shehhi's Sun Trust account from the Exchange Center, a $10,000 payment to Shehhi on July 18 from "Isam Mansur" and a $9500 August 5 payment from "Isam Mansour", gave Baluchi's PO Box number.
On August 8, Baluchi opened a bank account at Dubai Islamic Bank, using his name, passport and phone number. A $20,000 payment from Baluchi's bank account to Shehhi's Sun Trust account on August 29 gave a phone number one digit different than the one given by Isam Mansour on August 5.
A $70,000 payment was made to Shehhi's account by "Hani (Fawaz Trading)" on September 17 from the same exchange centre. Hani gave a telephone number one digit removed from the one Baluchi used on the transfer from his bank account on August 29.
In September, Hani Hanjour went to Dubai, where Baluchi gave him $3000 to open a new bank account, and later deposited $5000 in the account which Hanjour later accessed from ATMs in the United States. When Ahmed al-Ghamdi went to Dubai, Baluchi helped him purchase a cell phone. It is believed nine of the hijackers met with him in Dubai and received various levels of aid.
The 9/11 Commission Report stated that he "relied on the unremarkable nature of his transactions, which were essentially invisible amid the billions of dollars flowing daily across the globe."
On August 27, 2001, Baluchi applied for a visa to travel to the United States for a week after his employer announced the closing of their Dubai branch, and the government had sent notices informing the employees their work permits had been rescinded and they had to leave the country. He was declined since he appeared to be an economic immigrant, and instead moved back home to Pakistan a few days before the attacks.
Moving back in with his parents in Karachi, Pakistan, Baluchi saw his uncle several times when he came to visit. According to a short biography written by the United States government's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), after the Taliban was initially driven from power after the 9/11 attack, al-Balouchi assisted KSM in organizing the movement of al-Qaeda operatives and their families to safehouses in Pakistan.
- According to US government information, KSM had Balouchi be the "communications intermediary" between al-Qaeda and "shoe bombers" Richard Reid and Saajid Badat. In early 2002 Balouchi helped his uncle "prepare operatives" for travel from Pakistan to the United States, "ostensibly to carry out attacks".
- Another plan was to hijack airliners and crash them into London's Heathrow airport, but
- This plan was set aside in order to focus on a plan to bomb the US Consulate and other Western targets in Karachi.
- He also worked with his uncle to prepare Majid Khan and others for travel to the United States to conduct terrorist operations.
- Balouchi reportedly sent Majid Khan to Thailand in late 2002 to deliver $50,000 to finance a plan by Jemaah Islamiya leader Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin) to attack US and Israeli targets in Southeast Asia.
He later told investigators he helped his uncle arrange travel visas for people, but didn't know whether any of them were militants or not. In August 2002, the FBI questioned Abdul Samad Din Mohammed, the brother-in-law of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He reported that Baluchi was often in the company of his uncle, and would pick people up from the airport. His uncle KSM was arrested in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003. Baluchi spent the next two months with Walid bin 'Attash. According to US reports, following his uncle's arrest Baluchi took charge of some of the new attacks being planned.
Baluchi also married Aafia Siddiqui. She was accused of being an al-Qaeda member and in February 2010 was convicted of assaulting with a deadly weapon and attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents who were seeking to interrogate her while she was in custody, claimed to be married to Baluchi. The marriage was confirmed by Pakistani and US intelligence, a defense psychologist, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's family. (Siddiqui's family denies she was married to Baluchi.)
According to the FBI, after her arrest, Aafia Siddiqui told them that after she learned she was wanted by the US government she had gone into hiding around late March 2003 with the al-Baluchi clan. Divorced at the time, she stated she married Baluchi out of religious piety, since she "could not live in the same house with an unmarried male" (namely Baluchi) she married him. Their marriage was held in Hub Chowki outside of Karachi in the inner courtyard of Balouchi's house, with female al-Baluchi family members present. Siddiqui describes Balouchi as very kind to her, "a good man who is wrongly accused". (Siddiqui later repudiated all statements given to the FBI.)
The marriage lasted only a couple of months. According to one of KSM's uncles—Mohammed Hussein—Baluchi became alienated with Aafia's "liberal way of life". Aafia told the FBI that Baluchi divorced her after he was arrested.
Capture and treatment in US custody
After his arrest al-Baluchi was kept in CIA custody at undisclosed locations until September 6, 2006 when he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba. In December 2005, Human Rights Watch listed him as a "ghost prisoner" held in the CIA prison system. During al-Baluchi's secret detention he was subjected to many enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA. Officials reported: “al-Baluchi was tortured and forcibly dunked into a tub filled with ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly with a truncheon-like object hitting him and smashing his head against a wall.”
Baluchi had a copy of a letter to Osama bin Laden from Saudi scholars in his pocket, a computer disk containing a draft of a letter to bin Laden, two images of the September 11 attacks, and a perfume bottle containing low-concentration cyanide used to bleach and perfume clothes. Baluchi was also accused of discussing the possibility of exporting explosives to the United States through textile companies, but claims to have no knowledge of what conversation is being referenced. The arrests led to the arrests of Jawad al-Bashar and Farzand Shah.
On November 7, 2003, a detainee was interrogated and said that Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh spoke briefly in August 2000 about a "Losh" who had asked Atta if he could travel to the United States to help with any potential plots, having already asked Mohammed three months earlier. Authorities allege this is a reference to Baluchi.
- Other plots to attack civilian targets
According to US investigators, Baluchi told them that al-Qaeda had set up a biological weapons lab and he asked Aafia Siddiqui (who has a biology degree from MIT) advice on how long it would take to develop such weapons and whether the man in charge was capable of developing the weapons. Siddiqui replied that she "was willing to participate in a biological weapons (BW) project if al-Qaida tasked her to do so".
Another plot involving Bauchi alleged by US investigators involved Heathrow airport.
According to Balochi's file, he told interrogators that he became aware of a plan to attack Heathrow airport in January 2003 and had intended to seek help from a more senior al-Qaida operative, Walid bin Attash, to carry it out. An "analyst note" in the files notes that the plot called for "crashing numerous airplanes into Heathrow, with a secondary explosion immediately outside of the airport as a diversion". It collapsed after KSM was arrested in March 2003.
On September 6, 2006, Baluchi was transferred from a black site location to Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He was given the Internment Serial Number 10018 and is currently detained at a top-secret site at the Guantanamo base that allegedly houses approximately 15 "high-value" prisoners. Its location and the conditions inside are withheld from public knowledge and there are suspected grave human rights concerns regarding its conditions. Al-Baluchi's attorney James G. Connell, III visited him there in August 2013 under an order issued by the military commission.
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US District Court Justice Joyce Hens Green ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals were unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the Department of Defense scheduled Tribunals for the 14 high-value captives who were transferred from covert CIA custody, on September 6, 2006, for early winter of 2007.
The Summary of Evidence memo for Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal was drafted on February 8, 2007.
Baluchi cooperated with his tribunal. Although he was not able to call Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Saifullah Paracha or Ramzi bin al-Shibh to testify about his lack of connection to al-Qaeda, he was permitted to have his legal representative field statements they had made. He chose to put forward the statements by Mohammed and bin al-Shibh as evidence, but not the statement by Paracha.
Baluchi requested statements be garnered from Modern Electronics Corporation personnel, including Samir Sharin, Mohammed Mayer, Asraf Mayer, Ammar al-Tesqui and Sayed Tesqui that would testify he had no connections to militant forces, and that his employee records would show that he left several days before the attacks because his work permit had expired when MEC closed its Dubai branch. The tribunal judge ruled that although Baluchi's leaving Dubai a few days prior to the attacks was among the reasons for his capture, it was not relevant to seek records from his employer. Since the tribunal did not locate the individuals, Baluchi submit two statements he had written himself as what he believed his co-workers would say, and what he believed his Israeli roommates would say.
In his defence, Baluchi argued that he often acted as a "businessman" to supplement his income, and thus his signature, telephone number and similar details were easily obtained in Dubai. He admitted dealing with Marwan al-Shehhi, but said that "when [he] approached me, he never declared himself as 'hijacker Marwan al Shehhi'. He approached me the same way he approached other individuals and companies in the U.S. — a man wanting to do business".
The Department of Defense announced on August 9, 2007 that all fourteen of the "high-value detainees" who had been transferred to Guantanamo from the CIA's black sites, had been officially classified as "enemy combatants". Although judges Peter Brownback and Keith J. Allred had ruled two months earlier that only "illegal enemy combatants" could face military commissions, the Department of Defense waived the qualifier and said that all fourteen men could now face charges before Guantanamo military commissions.
First military commission
In February 2008, Baluchi was committed to a joint trial, charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.
Al Baluchi, Walid Bin Attash, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed chose to serve as their own attorney. They requested laptops, and internet access, in order to prepare their defenses. In October 2008 Ralph Kohlmann ruled that the men be provided with the computers, but not the internet access. Al Baluchi's request said he was a Microsoft Certified software engineer.
On December 8, 2008, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told the judge that he and the other four indictees wished to plead guilty; however, the plea would be delayed until after mental competency hearings for Hawsawi and bin al-Shibh. Mohammed said, "We want everyone to plead together."
January 2009 Executive Order to Close Guantanamo
On January 22, 2009, United States President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13492, ordering a halt to the Guantanamo military commission as part of the overall closure of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. On April 21, 2009, United States Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell cited "Ali Abd al-Azeez Ali" as an example of the kind of captive United States President Barack Obama might free in the United States when he closes the camp in January 2010, because he didn't know what else to do with him.
Second military commission
In October 2011, in an operation called the "baseline review," the prison seized all legal materials belonging to "high-value detainees," starting with Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The prison also announced that it would change its previous policy and begin reviewing legal mail for its content. In response, the Chief Defense Counsel (United States) ordered the attorneys under his supervision to stop sending privileged communications to Guantanamo prisoners. Under the Chief Defense Counsel (United States) policy, Al-Baluchi could not receive mail from his attorneys until November 2013.
On April 4, 2012, the Department of Defense referred Guantanamo military commission charges against al Baluchi and four other men for participation in the conspiracy leading up to the September 11 attacks. On May 5, 2012, Military Judge James Pohl arraigned al Baluchi, and appointed attorneys to represent him.
Zero Dark Thirty
A fictionalized account of al-Baluchi's interrogation at black sites is depicted in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty. The character "Ammar" is portrayed by Reda Kateb. Al-Baluchi has complained that the United States has provided more information to the filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal about al-Baluchi's treatment in CIA custody than it has to Baluchi's own attorneys.
The CIA acknowledged that the character "Ammar" is based on al-Baluchi. In the film, "Dan" the interrogator and other characters repeatedly describe "Ammar" as Mr. Mohammad's nephew. "Dan" also references the arrest of "Ammar" and describes his role as the financial facilitator in the 9/11 attacks. "The first 25 minutes of the movie are largely taken up with torture: Ammar is strung up, beaten, water boarded and kept awake for 96 hours straight."
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- Shannon, Elaine. Time, Al-Qaeda Moneyman Caught, May 1, 2003
- "Guantánamo files paint Aafia Siddiqui as top al-Qaida operative". The Guardian. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
- 9/11 Commission Report Findings Archived 2016-04-23 at the Wayback Machine.
- Scroggins, Wanted Women, 2012: p.246
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- "Detainee Bios" (PDF). PROJECT TO ENFORCE THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS (also on FAS.org). September 2006. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
- Summary of Evidence (.pdf), prepared for Ammar al-Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
- "Detainee Biographies". Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 31, 2009.
- FBI Report: "Summary of Pentbom Investigation", Feb 29, 2004. pp. 78
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- The mystery of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, The Guardian, 2009-11-24
- Family Affair, Just Maybe, at Courthouse
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- United States of America v. Aafia Siddiqui, Document 256, August 17, 2010, p.8
- Scroggins, Wanted Women, 2012: p.245-6
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- List of “Ghost Prisoners” Possibly in CIA Custody, Human Rights Watch, December 1, 2005
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- McKelvey, Tara. "A Visit to Guantanamo's Secretive Camp 7". BBC News. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- Summary of Evidence (.pdf), prepared for Ammar al-Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal – February 8, 2007
- Lolita C. Baldur (August 9, 2007). "Pentagon: 14 Guantanamo Suspects Are Now Combatants". Time magazine. mirror
- Sergeant Sara Wood (June 4, 2007). "Charges Dismissed Against Canadian at Guantanamo". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- Sergeant Sara Wood (June 4, 2007). "Judge Dismisses Charges Against Second Guantanamo Detainee". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- Human Rights Watch, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali
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Carol Rosenberg (2008-10-12). "Al Qaeda defendants get laptops at Guantánamo, judge rules". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
Mohammed, his nephew Ammar al Baluchi and Walid Bin Attash have sought through standby counsel filings at the Military Commission a long list of resources they say they need to mount their defense – including Internet links to read news accounts and do live research on databases.
- "Top 9/11 suspects to plead guilty". BBC News. December 8, 2008. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved December 8, 2008.
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- Finn, Peter. "Guantanamo authorities reading attorney-client mail, lawyers say". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-08-29.
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Books and journal articles
- Scroggins, Deborah (2012-01-17). Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780062097958.