WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Qatar’s foreign minister on Monday denied reports that one of five high-level Taliban detainees transferred from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar has attempted to re-engage in militant activity.
“It’s totally false,” Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya said. “They are living according to the agreement we signed with the United States.”
The five men were transferred from Guantanamo last May as part of an exchange that freed U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his military post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by militants.
Under a deal struck by U.S. President Barack Obama and Qatar’s emir, the five are supposed to be closely monitored to ensure they don’t return to militant activities.
CNN reported last week that U.S. military and intelligence officials suspect that one of the five, whom it did not identify, had “reached out” to suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan to encourage militant activity.
If confirmed, the development could present a political headache for Obama, who wants to close the Guantanamo facility and has accelerated the transfer of its remaining detainees.
But al-Attiya, speaking at a forum sponsored by The Atlantic magazine, said there was no cause for concern.
U.S. and Qatari security agencies “will monitor and pick up anything that will happen,” he said. “I can assure you, no one has made an attempt to go back” to Afghanistan, he added.
Al-Attiya, who met earlier in the day with Secretary of State John Kerry, also pressed Qatar’s position that the coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria should broaden its focus to include the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The narrow focus on Islamic State “is sad,” he said.
“In fact, the regime was the magnet to attract the terrorist groups” to Syria, al-Attiya said, adding that only by replacing Assad “can we get rid of any terrorism in the region.”
Reporting by Warren Strobel; Editing by Bernard Orr