The man accused of planning the London 7/7 bombings in 2005 has been freed from a Syrian jail by the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Abu Musab al-Suri had been held in Syria, his country of birth, for six years after being captured by the CIA under its controversial extraordinary rendition program, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.
But his release is now said to have come as a warning to Western allies, the United States and Britain, about the consequences of turning their backs on the Syrian regime.
Syria faces mounting international condemnation, including from the United Kingdom, over its government’s crackdown on anti-regime dissent which has resulted in the death of more than 6,000 people since protests began in mid-March.
A United Nations Security Council resolution on the Syrian crisis, which demanded a halt to the bloody crackdown, was backed by the UK and the U.S., among other Western and Arab powers on Saturday.
Suri’s release is thought to be part of a Syrian backlash on its new Western foes. The Syrian was also identified as an al-Qaeda operations chief in Europe, also going by the name of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar.
His release was revealed by Syrian opposition website Sooryoon.net last week, citing local sources.
A statement on the site read: “The timing of his release raises a lot of questions and observers believe the release may indicate the regime is stopping security co-operation with the Americans and thus releasing all those Washington considers a threat to its interests.”
Suri, a mechanical engineer, was seen as a possible successor to former al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, although the pair had reportedly been rivals.
Dubbed the 7/7 “mastermind,” the Syrian was accused of planning the London bombings, in which four British terrorists detonated bombs on three packed underground trains and a bus in the morning rush hour on July 7, 2005.
The bombs killed 52 victims and injured more than 700 people.
In a statement released after the attacks, Suri said: “[In my teachings] I have mentioned vital and legitimate targets to be hit in the enemy’s countries … Among those targets that I speciﬁcally mentioned as examples was the London Underground. [Targeting this] was and still is the aim,” The Telegraph reported.
The freed Syrian is also wanted in Spain in connection with the Madrid train bombings in 2004, which left 191 dead, and for links to an attack on the Paris Metro in 1995.
He had a $4.75 million U.S. State Department bounty on his head, was reportedly captured in Pakistan in November 2005 and handed to the CIA.
In a move that has never been officially confirmed, the Americans then reportedly turned him over to Syria where he had been held for the past six years in the Aleppo prison, The Telegraph reported.
Concerns now linger over whether reports of Suri’s release could trigger fear in the Western community over al-Qaeda’s ability to continue launching terrorism attacks.
Suri could now bring renewed clout to the militant group following the death of Bin Laden last May and the death of Yemeni al-Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen last September.
(Written by Eman El-shenawi)