by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Department of State said Wednesday it is adding Ayrat Nasimovich Vakhitov, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, to its list of designated terrorists, after it was revealed Vakhitov may have had ties to the Turkish airport bombing.
That addition has likely come following revelations of Vakhitov’s close connection to the airport bombing in Turkey. The State Department’s release only refers to Vakhitov’s use of “the internet to recruit militants to travel to Syria” and the fact that he’s fought on behalf of Jaysh al-Muhajirin Wal Ansar, a jihadi group opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
An analysis by The Long War Journal confirmed Vakhitov was once a Gitmo detainee.
Turkish authorities have arrested 30 people for suspected involvement in the bombing in some capacity. Vakhitov, an ethnic Tatar from Russia, is one of those 30. Turkey believes the airport attack stemmed from Islamic State, though the terror group has made no formal declaration of involvement.
According to Voice of America, Vakhitov was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001, after which point he was shipped to Gitmo for a stay of only two years. The U.S. released him to Russia in 2004, as the Joint Task Force Guantanamo concluded he had no ties to al-Qaida and was not a leader in the Taliban. Still, the U.S. assumed he was dangerous enough that upon release to Russia, authorities would keep him imprisoned.
A Russian court found no evidence Vakhitov had terror connections and he was released.