|Home Front: WoT|
|Gitmo Con Sez He's a New Man|
|SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Abdul Hakim Bukhary was once ready to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But the former holy warrior has told his American captors he now loves democracy - and that hardline Taliban fighters prompted his conversion.|
Bukhary traveled from his native Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in 2001 after the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan using a strict interpretation of the Quran, called for a jihad against American soldiers. The U.S. troops were set to invade in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Bukhary told his tribunal at Guantanamo Bay that he had been in Afghanistan earlier - in the 1980s to fight Soviet troops. His tale appeared in transcripts of hearings at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba, where Bukhary was detained along with hundreds of other prisoners.
Bukhary said that as he waited in a guest house in Afghanistan for the U.S. invasion to begin, he told his Taliban hosts that he admired Ahmed Shah Massood, a veteran of the war against the Soviet occupation and a rebel commander revered by many Afghans. But Massood was an enemy of the Taliban who was killed days before the Sept. 11 attacks by a Taliban assassination squad posing as journalists. The Taliban disapproved of Bukhary's idle comment.
"It was a terrible time," he recalled. "Horrible."
Bukhary told the U.S. military tribunal that he was transferred from jail to jail before falling into custody of U.S. ground forces. He said Guantanamo was better than the prison in Kandahar. He could eat. He could talk. "Prisoners here are in paradise," he exclaimed. "American people are very good. Really. They give us three meals. Fruit juice and everything!"
Bukhary told the tribunal that, unlike the Taliban, the U.S. guards did not care if he talked.
"I like to talk because I found that nobody bothers me. Nobody beats me. Nobody hits me," he said, adding: "About democracy. It is really good."
The transcripts did not indicate whether Bukhary's testimony swayed the tribunal. It was unknown if he remained in custody.