Andy Worthington recounts Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih’s final years-
Like the other prisoners who died of “apparent suicides” at Guantánamo, Salih had been a long-term hunger striker, refusing food as the only method available to protest his long imprisonment without charge or trial. According to weight records issued by the Pentagon in 2007, he weighed 124 pounds on his arrival at Guantánamo, but at one point in December 2005, during the largest hunger strike in the prison’s history, his weight dropped to just 86 pounds.
Salih was one of around 50 prisoners at Guantánamo who had survived a massacre at Qala-i-Janghi, a fort in northern Afghanistan, at the end of November 2001, when, after the surrender of the city of Kunduz, several hundred foreign fighters surrendered to General Rashid Dostum, one of the leaders of the Northern Alliance, in the mistaken belief that they would be allowed to return home. Instead, they were imprisoned in Qala-i-Janghi, a nineteenth century mud fort in Mazar-e-Sharif, and when some of the men started an uprising against their captors, which led to the death of a CIA operative, US Special Forces, working with the Northern Alliance and British Special Forces, called in bombing raids to suppress the uprising, leading to hundreds of deaths. The survivors – who, for the most part, had not taken part in the fighting – took shelter in the basement of the fort, where they endured further bombing, and they emerged only after many more had died when the basement was set on fire and then flooded.
Like many of the prisoners at Guantánamo, Salih had traveled to Afghanistan many months before the 9/11 attacks, to fight as a foot soldier for the Taliban in Afghanistan’s long-running civil war against the Muslims of the Northern Alliance. When the US military reviewed his case at Guantánamo in 2004, he refused to attend the hearing, but provided a statement via his Personal Representative (a representative of the military assigned in place of a lawyer), in which he said that he arrived in Afghanistan eight or nine months before the 9/11 attacks, and admitted being a member of the Taliban, but made a point of adding, “Yes, but that doesn’t mean I supported Osama bin Laden.”
He also admitted fighting on the front lines against the Northern Alliance, but added “that he fired at the enemy, but did not kill anyone,” and also admitted staying in four different Taliban-run guest houses in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although he also made a point of saying that he hadn’t heard of al-Qaeda “until from the media on the front lines.” He also explained that he did not participate in military operations against the United States or its coalition partners, saying, “The first time I saw Americans was in Kandahar” (at the US prison used for processing prisoners after their capture). He also denied an allegation that Osama bin Laden spoke to “his group” in Tora Bora (the site of a battle between US/Afghan forces and remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in late November and early December 2001), saying that he had never been in Tora Bora, which was, of course, true, as he was in Qala-i-Janghi instead, and was then moved to General Dostum’s prison at Sheberghan, where he was imprisoned when the Battle of Tora Bora took place.