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Former Guantanamo Detainee Jamal Kiyemba Arrested for Murder of Ugandan Prosecutor

Jamal Kiyemba, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee residing in Uganda, was reportedly arrested Tuesday along with several other suspects accused of killing the prosecutor in al Shabaab-linked terror case.
April 7, 2015, 6:20pm
Photo by James Akena/Reuters

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee residing in Uganda has reportedly been arrested in connection with the murder of a Ugandan prosecutor last month ahead of a trial against men suspected of carrying out al Shabaab-linked bombings in the country's capital five years ago.

Ugandan citizen Jamal Kiyemba was detained in a joint mission with US government forces and the Uganda Police Force, the US State Department confirmed to VICE News on Wednesday.

In a statement sent to VICE News on Wednesday, the Department of State confirmed that US government personnel supported a Ugandan operation that led to the apprehension of several people suspected of being involved in the shooting death of Senior Principal State Attorney Joan Kagezi. According to the State Department, US involvement was requested by Ugandan authorities. The official said they had confirmed Kiyemba's detention, but said they could not comment on details, instead deferring to authorities in Uganda.

"We take any indications of possible reengagement very seriously, and we work in close coordination through military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic channels to mitigate reengagement and to take follow-on action when necessary," the official said in the statement.

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Reports initially surfaced in local Ugandan media on Tuesday that cited confirmation from US Embassy spokesperson Daniel Travis. A video report on the arrests by NTV Uganda appeared to show an email from Travis that said, "We can confirm that former Guantanamo detainee Jamal Kiyemba was detained in the operation."

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Kiyemba was released from Guantanamo in 2006. The former Guantanamo prisoner was first detained in Pakistan in 2002 for suspected links to al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Kiyemba and the other suspects arrested Tuesday in Uganda are believed to have played a role in the shooting death of Kagezi on March 30 in Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

At least three suspects were arrested Tuesday on the edge of Kampala, according to the Associated Press. Authorities reportedly said the suspects lived in the neighborhood where Kagezi was murdered, with Ugandan police chief Kale Kayihura saying investigators were tipped off by a series of physical address changes the group made.

"We got information about some suspects who have been moving from place to place … They were moving, trying to escape from us," Kayihura said during a press conference.

Armed men on a motorbike assassinated Kagezi while she was riding in a car on her way home. Since March, she had been leading the trial against 13 men accused of carrying out the 2010 Kampala bombings. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks on two different World Cup screening venues in the capital on July 11, 2010 that left nearly 80 people dead. The attacks are widely considered to be the Somali militant group's first successful international terror plot.

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Prior to Kagezi's murder, the US Embassy in Uganda raised concerns about "possible threats" in urban areas where expats congregate. The US also reportedly issued warnings of a suicide bomber attempting to cross into Uganda.

Kiyemba is notable for a habeas corpus petition filed in 2005 regarding his unlawful detention at Guantanamo, a filing that eventually came to involve several other detainees. The petition became the federal court case Kiyemba v. Bush, and later Kiyemba v. Obama. Kiyemba was released from Guantanamo in 2006 and repatriated to Uganda.

Kiyemba, who also holds British citizenship, described torture he experienced at Guanatanmo in great detail to the Daily Mail in 2006. Kiyemba, believed to be 34 years old, said he traveled to Pakistan with the aim of studying the Quran and Arabic, but was arrested there in 2002 and subsequently beaten by Pakistani intelligence forces. He said he was eventually flown on a US aircraft to the American-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan, then moved to Guantanamo in October 2003.

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB