Authorities have captured a high-level al Qaeda figure who helped Osama bin Laden escape from Afghanistan in 2001, the Pentagon announced Friday.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to say when or where Mohammad Rahim al-Afghani was captured - or by whom - announcing only that he was handed over by the CIA to the Pentagon earlier this week and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But in a memo obtained by The Associated Press, CIA Director Michael Hayden told agency employees that Rahim was detained in the summer of 2007.
"Rahim is a tough, seasoned jihadist," Hayden said. "His combat experience, which dates back to the 1980s, includes plots against U.S. and Afghan targets."
Rahim is a close associate of bin Laden and has ties to al Qaeda organizations throughout the Middle East, Whitman said.
He said Rahim helped prepare the al Qaeda hideout at Tora Bora - a mountain area full of warrens used by bin Laden during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. He assisted al Qaeda's escape from the area during the U.S. operation to try to catch the al Qaeda leader, officials said.
"Rahim's detention in the summer of 2007 was a blow to more than one terrorist network," Hayden said. "He gave aid to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other anti-Coalition militants.
A statement from the Pentagon said Rahim al-Afghani is now under Department of Defense custody and control and will be treated appropriately and in accordance with policy and procedures for other DoD detainees at Guantanamo.
He will be treated in accordance with U.S. law and international obligations under treaties to include the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commissions Act, and applicable Department of Defense directives and instructions governing detainee operations, the statement said.