KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Security has been tightened at the U.S. military prison in Afghanistan following the escape of a suspected al-Qaida leader, a U.S. official said yesterday. Indonesian anti-terrorism officials accused Washington of failing to tell them of the breakout.
Omar al-Farouq, born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents, was considered one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants in Southeast Asia until Indonesian authorities captured him in 2002 and turned him over to the United States.
He was one of four suspected Arab terrorists to escape in July from the detention facility at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. It was not clear how long he had been held in Afghanistan.
Although the escape was widely reported at the time, al-Farouq was identified by an alias and the U.S. military only confirmed Tuesday that he was among those who fled.
A video the four men made of themselves after they escaped from Bagram was broadcast on Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya on Oct. 18, the broadcaster said.
In the video, the four men said they escaped on a Sunday when many of the Americans on the base were off duty, and one of the four – Muhammad Hassan, said to be Libyan – said he picked the locks of their cell, according to Al-Arabiya.
In the video, apparently shot in Afghanistan, they show fellow militants a map of the base and the location of their cell. Another shot in the video showed Hassan leading the others in prayer. Editors at Al-Arabiya would not say how they received the video.
An Indonesian anti-terrorism official, Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, on Wednesday sharply criticized the U.S. government for failing to inform him that al-Farouq was no longer behind bars.
“We know nothing about the escape of Omar al-Farouq,” he said. “He is a dangerous terrorist for us, his escape will increase the threat of terrorism in Indonesia.
“We need to coordinate security here as soon as possible to anticipate his return,” he said. “The escape of al-Farouq could bring fresh wind to the operation of terrorism and could energize the new movement of terrorist actors in Southeast Asia and the world.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked by CNN about Mbai’s comments to The Associated Press that Indonesia was not told about the escape, said: “I don’t know all the facts of this particular incident. Obviously, we consider this a very serious problem and one we’d have to look into the details of.”