Abu Zubaydah


Abu Zubaydah : biography

March 12, 1971 –

Biography and his early years in Afghanistan

According to his younger brother Hesham, they had eight siblings.

Hesham remembers his older brother "as a happy-go-lucky guy, and something of a womanizer." Born in Saudi Arabia, Abu Zubaydah moved to the West Bank as a teenager, where he joined in Palestinian demonstrations against the Israelis.Mayer, Jane, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, 2008. p. 140, Simon & Schuster, 2009 Abu Zubaydah is reported to have studied Computer Science in Pune, India prior to his travel to Afghanistan/Pakistan at the age of 20 in 1991. He joined the mujahideen in the Afghan civil war., The Washington Post, 29 March 2009 In 1992 Abu Zubaydah was injured in a mortar shell blast. It left shrapnel in his head and caused severe memory loss, as well as the loss of the ability to speak for over one year. 

, The Washington Post, 18 December 2007Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, Simon & Schuster, 2006 Zubaydah eventually became involved in the jihad training camp known as the Khalden Camp, where he oversaw the flow of recruits. He obtained passports and paperwork for men transferring to other training camps or home.

During the early years of the War in Afghanistan, the Bush administration described the Khalden Camp as an al-Qaeda training facility, an assertion used as evidence of an alleged connection to al-Qaeda for Abu Zubaydah and more than 50 other men held as enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Since 2006, however, this allegation has been contested by the 9/11 Commission Report, Brynjar Lia, head of the international terrorism and global jihadism at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment; and unclassified records from the detainees’ tribunal reviews (CSRT)s at Guantanamo., pp. 65–73, Department of Defense, p. 15, Department of Defense, 22 July 2006Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri , Columbia University Press, 2008

Abu Zubaydah testified in his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) that the Khalden Camp was at such odds with al-Qaeda and bin Laden that it was closed by the Taliban in 2001, at al-Qaeda’s request. This account was corroborated by two other detainees, Noor Uthman Muhammed, alleged by the U.S. Government to have been the emir, or leader, of the Khalden Camp; and Khalid Sulayman Jaydh Al Hubayshi, a close friend of Zubaydah. In addition, Muhamed’s charge sheet refers to the closing of the Khalden camp at the request of terrorist leaders., Department of Defense Website

Brynjar Lia wrote in his 2008 book that an ideological conflict, between the leaders of the Khalden Camp and the Taliban and al-Qaeda, led to the closing of the Khalden Camp. Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sulayman Jaydh Al Hubayshi, and Noor Uthman Muhammed confirmed this divide in their CSRT testimony. Of the 57 detainees the U.S. Government claims are associated with the Khalden Camp, 27 have been released, including Abu Zubaydah’s friend Al Hubayshi.

On September 12, 2009, Colin Freeze, writing in the Globe and Mail, reported on recent interviews with Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, who has been held without charge in the USA since 2003. He is a Lebanese citizen, US resident, and green card holder.

Elzahabi told the Globe and Mail that Abu Zubaydah had served under him when he was a squad commander during the Afghanistan war against the Soviet troops. Elzahabi said that after the Soviet ouster, Zubaydah worked as an instructor at Khalden. 

Changing depiction of Abu Zubaydah

When Abu Zubaydah was captured, the Bush Administration believed he was an unparalleled source of intelligence on al-Qaeda and terrorism plots. He was touted as the biggest catch of the War on Terror until the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. CBS News, March 1, 2003 The director of the FBI stated Abu Zubaydah’s capture would help deter future attacks.. New York Times, April 4, 2002