By Pauline Jelinek
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Authorities have captured a high-level al-Qaida figure who helped Osama bin Laden escape from Afghanistan in 2001, the Pentagon announced today.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to say when or where Mohammad Rahim 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-Qaida organizations throughout the Middle East, Whitman said.
He said Rahim helped prepare the al-Qaida 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-Qaida's escape from the area during the U.S. operation to try to catch the al-Qaida leader, officials said.
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"Rahim's detention in the summer of 2007 was a blow to more than one terrorist network," Hayden said. "He gave aid to al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other anti-Coalition militants.