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Allegedly an al-Qaeda agent, Hassan Ghul (Arabic language: حسان غول‎) born Mustafa Hajji Muhammad Khan,[1] was also identified as a member of Ansar al-Islam.[2] His nationality was reported as Saudi Arabian,[3] Yemeni,[4][5] Pakistani[5][6] or Egyptian.[7][8] His testimony was a critical factor in identifying the secret location of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Captured by Kurdish Military and turned over to American forces in 2004, Ghul was stated to have been as lowly as a "courier" who ran packages and delivered letters for al-Qaeda members. Ghul held such high ranks as "top lieutenant", "second-in-command" or "trusted emissary" of everyone from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

He was held at a CIA black site for two years, before being turned over to a Pakistani prison system.[9] It was during this time of detainment by the CIA that Ghul surrendered the nickname al-Kuwaiti as a key piece of intelligence. The name al-Kuwaiti was questionable but the information supplied by Ghul gave intelligence operatives some interesting insight and raised speculation as to why no captured enemy combatant ever revealed the real name of Osama bin Laden's courier. The questions surrounding al-Kuwaiti are still unanswered, however, intelligence agents intercepted a satellite phone call [10] made by Osama bin Laden's bodyguard in 2010 which led to the surveillance of a courier that in turn led intelligence operatives to Osama bin Laden's compound.[11]

Ghul was killed by a CIA drone strike in North Waziristan in October 2012.[12]


Ghul was first mentioned in the 9/11 Commission, where he was stated to have led three people, including Mushabib al-Hamlan, to a waypoint controlled by Abu Zubaydah.[13]

He was captured on January 23, 2004[14] by Kurdish police forces, possibly associated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,[15] at a checkpoint near Kalar, at the Iranian border after police sent a fax to American CIA officials to confirm his photograph. There are contradicting claims that he was caught entering Iraq to bring al-Zarqawi money and bomb schematics[16] or that he was caught leaving Iraq bringing al-Zarqawi's progress report on successful suicide bombings into Iran.[7]

Ghul was carrying a USB flash drive and two CDs, one allegedly including a 17-page progress report believed to have been written by al-Zarqawi, claiming responsibility for suicide attacks in Iraq. US Intelligence officials have contradicted the accepted story, stating that the progress report was instead found in an abandoned safehouse in Baghdad.[17][18] In addition, the US military provided the media with "photocopies of the original handwritten Arabic letter" which were then translated, muddying the claim that it had been a computer document.[19] A notebook in his satchel also revealed a number of names and phone numbers of suspected associates.[20]

Kurdish forces immediately turned Ghul over to the American military, and he was interrogated while still in the country.[17][21] Although he may have been cooperative with the military interrogation, his questioning revealed little.[22]

Statements about his capture

Following his capture, Fox News reported that he had been an al-Qaeda member since the very beginning of the group, at least ten years earlier, and was widely known as The Gatekeeper "in terrorist circles", although no corroboration or other sources have supported these claims.[23] There have been similarly unreferenced suggestions in the media that Ghul played a role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Africa.[21][23]

Three days after his capture, Ghul was mentioned in a speech by President George W. Bush:

Just yesterday -- not yesterday -- just last week, we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul was a -- reported directly to Khalid Shaik Muhammad, who was the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks. He was a killer. He was moving money and messages around South Asia and the Middle East to other al-Qaeda leaders. He was a part of this network of haters that we're dismantling.

Our intelligence officers did a good job. He was captured in Iraq where he was helping al-Qaeda to put pressure on our troops. There is one less enemy we have to worry about with the capture of Hassan Ghul.

Six days after his capture, U.S. General Ricardo Sanchez referred to Ghul stating "The capture of Ghul is pretty strong proof that al-Qaida is trying to gain a foothold [in Iraq] to continue their murderous campaigns"[24] CIA Director George Tenet mentioned Ghul in his testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as an al-Qaeda member who would "never again threaten the American people", after allegedly being "sent to case Iraq for an expanded al-Qaeda presence there"[25] Columnist William Safire claimed it was a "smoking gun" that proved a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.[26]

Since then, Ghul became a ghost detainee, his very existence was unacknowledged. In June 2007, he was one of 39 people cited in a joint release by HRW, Cageprisoners, Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York University School of Law as prisoners who have not been accounted for, and are likely held in secret CIA Black sites.


In 2006, two and a half years after his capture, Ghul was transferred to a secret Pakistani prison system, where he was held alongside British suspect Rangzieb Ahmed.[9] The two spoke to each other, and Ghul told him that he was held at a secret CIA location for 2 1/2 years and had also passed through Morocco. He was again transferred to an unknown location in January 2007.[9] Ghul was released in 2007. He was thought to have rejoined militants and returned to the battlefield. For some time his whereabouts were unknown,[27][28] but Ghul was eventually killed by a US drone strike on 1 October 2012.[29] The National Security Agency deployed an arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions to find Ghul. After intercepting an e-mail from Ghul's wife, the NSA was able to locate Ghul and handed over the information to the Central Intelligence Agency which employed a drone to kill Ghul.[29]


  2. "Leader's profile: Hassan Ghul". Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved June 10, 2007. 
  4. Jason Burke (February 1, 2004). "Nine killed in bomb attack on Iraq police". London: The Observer.,,1136499,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Barbara Slavin (March 16, 2004). "Success on war goals open to interpretation". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  6. Dan Murphy (February 5, 2004). "'Kurdish Sept. 11' boosts resolve". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "AIM Report: Breaking America's Resolve". Accuracy in Media. May 19, 2004. Retrieved June 10, 2007. 
  8. "Who is Hasan Ghul?". Informed Comment. January 30, 2004. Retrieved June 10, 2007. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Testimony of Rangzieb Ahmed
  10. Bin Laden bodyguard's satellite phone calls helped lead US forces to hiding place
  11. Phone Call by Kuwaiti Courier Led to Bin Laden
  12. Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program
  13. 911 Commission: Notes to Chapter 7, 911 Commission
  14. "List of "Ghost Prisoners" Possibly in CIA Custody". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2007. 
  15. "Backgrounder: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi". Defend Democracy. May 20, 2004. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved June 10, 2007. 
  16. Andrea Mitchell (January 29, 2004). "Al-Qaida captive in Iraq talking: U.S. intelligence: Ghul was likely bearing money, plans for bombings". NBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Emerging face of al-Qaeda's man in Iraq". Sydney Morning Herald. February 11, 2004. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  18. Dexter Filkins (February 9, 2004). "U.S. Says Files Seek Qaeda Aid In Iraq Conflict". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  19. Cesar Soriano (June 15, 2006). "Iraqi leaders: Memo details al-Qaeda plans". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  20. Brian Bennett, Vivienne Walt (February 23, 2004). "Fields of Jihad". Time.,9171,1101040223-590685,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Bill Gertz (January 24, 2004). "U.S., Iraqis capture al Qaeda 'facilitator'". Washington Times. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  22. Toby Dodge. "Iraq after Brahimi: sovereignty, democracy or chaos?" (PDF). Archived from the original on July 5, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2007. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Suspected al-Qaeda Operatives Nabbed in Iraq". Fox News. January 24, 2004.,2933,109338,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  24. "U.S. Commander Says Qaeda Working in Iraq". New York Times. January 29, 2004. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  25. Testimony of Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
  26. Safire, William, New York Times Editorial, "Found: A Smoking Gun, February 11, 2004
  27. "Bin Laden informant's treatment key to torture debate". Reuters. May 14, 2011. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Miller, Greg; Tate, Julie; Gellman, Barton (October 17, 2013). "Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program". The Washington Post. 

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