Former Guantánamo Prisoner Suspected in Benghazi Attack

Thursday, January 09, 2014
Abu Sufian bin Qumu

A detainee released from Guantánamo Bay during the George W. Bush administration may have been involved in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, two years ago.


Abu Sufian bin Qumu was held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba until 2007, when the Bush administration turned him over to Libya. He spent the next year in custody, but was released.


He went on to become the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah. The investigation into the Benghazi attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, found militiamen under Qumu’s command participated in the assault.


According to a Guantánamo “Detainee Assessment” prepared by the Department of Defense in 2005, Qumu was born in Libya and served for many years as a tank driver in the Libyan army, before ending up in prison, where he remained until he escaped in 1993. He joined Osama bin Laden’s fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and then moved to Sudan, where he worked as a truck driver for one of bin Laden’s companies. He moved to Pakistan and later fought for the Taliban in their civil war against the Northern Alliance. Qumu was in Kabul at the time of the U.S. invasion, but then crossed back to Pakistan. Following a tip from other Libyans, he was arrested by Pakistani police at a hotel in Peshawar and turned over to U.S. forces. Qumu was transferred to Guantánamo on May 5, 2002.


The assessment concluded that Qumu “poses a MEDIUM to HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies.” He was also deemed to be “of HIGH intelligence value.” This may be the reason that the Bush administration, thinking Qumu would act as an ally, released him from Guantánamo two years later.


Now the Obama administration intends to designate Ansar al-Sharia as a foreign terrorist organization, and Qumu will be listed as a “specially designated global terrorist,” which allows U.S. officials to freeze his financial assets and prohibit American citizens and companies from doing business with him.


U.S. officials have been monitoring Qumu in Libya, but have found the lawless situation there too risky to go after him.


Prior to being captured in Pakistan and sent to Guantánamo Bay, Qumu served in the Libyan army. He was later thrown in prison for 10 years before fleeing to Egypt and Afghanistan, where fought alongside the Taliban against U.S. forces.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Former Guantanamo Detainee Implicated in Benghazi Attack (by Adam Goldman, Washington Post)

Abu Sufian bin Qumu – A Familiar Fighter (Analysis Intelligence)

Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda Bin Qumu (WikiLeaks)

A Deadly Mix in Benghazi (by David Kirkpatrick, New York Times)


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