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February 9, 2015

Britain’s Last Guantánamo Detainee: Who is Shaker Aamer?

Robin Simcox

Britain’s Last Guantánamo Detainee: Who is Shaker Aamer? follows the news that the British government is lobbying for Saudi-born Aamer’s return to the United Kingdom.  Aamer will be eligible for a payout thought to be worth approximately £1,000,000 on his return, as featured in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph.

The last remaining British resident still held at Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer is believed by the United States government to be a military-trained al-Qaeda member who recruited for extremist causes and had close ties to Osama bin Laden.  He has been described by one guard as the camp’s ‘Bon Jovi’ for his celebrity status and power over other inmates.  This briefing details some of Aamer’s activities leading up to his incarceration by the US as well as during his time at Guantánamo Bay.

The briefing highlights several areas of concern:

  • Seven separate sources at Guantánamo attested to Aamer’s connections to either al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.
  • The charities that Aamer said he has worked for in the past have been listed by the United Nations and US Treasury as al-Qaeda support groups.
  • Aamer is suspected of fighting at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, as the US and its allies attacked al-Qaeda and Taliban forces there towards the end of 2001. Multiple detainees at Guantánamo Bay have identified Aamer as the commander of the Juhanya Centre in Tora Bora (Abu Juhanyah was one of Shaker Aamer’s aliases).
  • Fellow Guantánamo detainees have claimed Aamer became the de facto emir of a group of detainees on the strength of his personal charisma, making others swear loyalty to him and spreading civil unrest.

Robin Simcox, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society and author of the briefing, commented:

“The US government has clearly had a multitude of good reasons to detain Shaker Aamer on the basis of his suspected connections to al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other jihadists. Furthermore the charities that Aamer said he worked for are known to be al-Qaeda support groups.  Aamer’s formidable reputation among the other detainees at Guantánamo Bay shows that he remains highly influential. There is far more to Aamer than the benign image his supporters portray.”

Britain’s Last Guantánamo Detainee: Who is Shaker Aamer? is available to download here


Robin Simcox

About Robin Simcox

Robin Simcox is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, where he specialises in al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda inspired terrorism. He is the co-author of both editions of 'Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections' and several other reports broadly focussed on national security, terrorism and al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliated movements across the world. Simcox has written for the likes of the Wall Street Journal, New Republic, Guardian, Weekly Standard, Spectator, Huffington Post and Daily Telegraph and regularly appears across a broad variety of media outlets, including the BBC, Fox News, Sky News, Channel 4 and al-Jazeera. He has spoken on a variety of platforms, including the British Parliament, US Special Operations Command and the European Parliament.

Full profile  |  See all of Robin Simcox's work