Israel 'interested' in accepting Guantanamo Bay detainee for prosecution

Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu is suspected of plotting and executing two terror attacks against Israeli targets in Mombasa, Kenya on the same day in 2002.

December 9, 2016 17:50
3 minute read.
Kenyan terror suspects on trial for attack on Israeli owned Paradise hotel in Mombasa

Kenyan terror suspects on trial for attack on Israeli owned Paradise hotel in Mombasa. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States has asked Israel to prosecute a Kenyan detainee held at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba since 2007, The Miami Herald reported on Thursday.

The US believes that Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, 43, played a key role in the 2002 car-bombing attack of the Israeli owned Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, resulting in 13 fatalities.

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Bajabu is also suspected of being involved in a failed terror plot to attack an Israeli airliner carrying 271 people near the Mombasa airport with a surface-to-air missile on the same day.

Charred remains of the Israeli owned Paradise hotel in Mombasa, Kenya

Israel has expressed interest in receiving the prisoner, according to The Miami Herald, who "admitted that he participated in the planning and execution” of the two terror attacks on November 28.

Bajabu, however, has never been charged with a crime since his detention in 2007. Yet, he has been held at the controversial facility by the US government and is considered too dangerous for release.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay prison site since his administration began in 2009. The US Congress, however, has refused to relocate Guantanamo detainees onto American soil, forcing the White House to devise other solutions to prosecute so-called "forever prisoners."

Of the 59 detainees currently incarcerated at the facility, only 20 have been approved for release, with another 10 set to be prosecuted at the Pentagon war court. The rest have yet to be charged with a crime by the US government, but are still believed to pose too great a security threat to America or its allies.

Earlier this year, Ambassador Lee Wolosky, the US State Department’s Special Envoy for the closure of Guantanamo, traveled to Israel and met with Israeli senior officials who "expressed interest" in receiving Bajabu, The Herald reported, citing three US government sources familiar with the case. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the paper noted, was not present for the meeting.

Burned cars in the deadly Paradise hotel terror attack in Mombasa, Kenya

But the proposed transfer has encountered problems, with the US Federal Bureau of Investigations failing to provide Israeli authorities with information from Bajabu's interrogations.

“The government of Israel has repeatedly asked for information to support their possible prosecution. But, for reasons that are unclear, the FBI has declined to provide the information that has been requested by senior Israeli prosecutors,” said one US government source.

“They want to see the incriminating statements. And that’s where we are stuck — and have been for many months —which is frustrating.”

The White House has pressed hard for Bajabu's transfer, asking the US Department of Justice to get the FBI to cooperate, according to the Herald.

Aerial view of the Israeli owned Paradise hotel in Mombasa, Kenya following a deadly terror attack in 2002

It remains unclear how the case will play out with Obama's tenure as president coming to an end on January 20, 2017, handing over power to President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump told The Miami Herald this summer that although he does not agree with some of Obama's decisions concerning the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, he was not rigidly opposed to the idea of transfers. 

“I want to make sure, 100 percent sure, that if we’re going to release people, No. 1 they are going to be people that can be released and it’s going to be safe to release them,” Trump said.

It is unclear how Bajabu escaped prosecution in Kenya or the details of his capture by the United States.


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