Mahfouz Ould al-Walid

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Mahfouz Ould al-Walid
محفوظ ولد الوالد
Born January 1, 1975 (1975-01-01) (age 49)[1]
Nationality Mauritanian
Other names
  • Abu Hafs al-Mauritani
  • Khalid al-Shanqiti
  • Khaled al-Shanqiti
  • Mafouz Walad al-Walid[2]
Known for Islamic scholar and poet affiliated with al-Qaeda until the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Mahfouz Ould al-Walid (محفوظ ولد الوالد), kunya Abu Hafs al-Mauritani (أبو حفص الموريتاني), is a Mauritanian Islamic scholar and poet previously associated with al-Qaeda. A veteran of the Soviet–Afghan War,[3] he served on al-Qaeda's Shura Council[4] and ran a religious school called the Institute of Islamic Studies in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from the late 1990s until the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.[5]

Along with Saeed al-Masri and Saif al-Adel, al-Walid opposed the September 11 attacks two months prior to their execution.[6][7](p18)[8] Under interrogation, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that al-Walid had opposed any large-scale attack against the United States and wrote bin Laden a stern letter warning against any such action, quoting the Quran.[6]

Al-Walid fled from Afghanistan to Iran after the American invasion and was held there under house arrest from 2003 until April 2012.[9][10] At that time, Iran extradited him to Mauritania, where he was held in prison until his release on July 7, 2012. He was released after renouncing his ties to al-Qaeda and condemning the September 11 attacks.[10][11]


The publisher of the magazine Al-Talib (The Student), al-Walid wrote poetry that attracted the attention of Osama bin Laden, and was invited to give spiritual lectures to mujahideen at Afghan training camps.[3] Some time in late 2000 or early 2001, bin Laden was videotaped reciting al-Walid's poem "Thoughts Over al-Aqsa Intifadah".[12]

It was later suggested that he had traveled to Iraq in early 1998 in an attempt to meet with Saddam Hussein, but was turned away as the leader did not want to create problems for his country.[13]

Later in 1998, the United States learned al-Walid was staying in Room 13 at the Dana Hotel in Khartoum, and President Bill Clinton sought to have him killed or preferably renditioned to a friendly country for interrogation. When a plan was finally made to capture him using another country's officials, he had already left Sudan.[14][15]

In 1998, Germany began monitoring Mohamedou Ould Salahi's accounts, and it was noticed that al-Walid had asked him to spare some money twice, resulting in a DM8,000 transfer in December and one other situation in which he sent him money.[16] In January 1999, al-Walid telephoned Salahi using a monitored satellite phone he borrowed from Bin Laden.[17] He was initially labeled as being the same person as Slahi by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, who amended their list in June 2007 to distinguish the two people.[2][18] It was later suggested they were brothers-in-law, cousins or cousins-in-law.[17] The confusion seemed to stem from the fact that al-Walid's wife and Salahi's wife were sisters.

In mid-2000, al-Walid was approached by Ahmed al-Nami and Mushabib al-Hamlan who asked him about becoming suicide operatives.[19]

Ayman al-Zawahiri has credited al-Walid's book Islamic Action Between the Motives of Unit and the Advocates of Conflict as being one of the driving forces behind convincing al-Qaeda to merge with Egyptian Islamic Jihad in June 2001.[3]

War on Terror

It is believed that the American invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks by bin Laden actually drove al-Walid away from al-Qaeda and that he and a number of other discontent former members moved to the south to avoid connection with the ongoing fight.[7][20] He was said to be opposed to the attacks both because he feared that the Americans would respond with force, but also because he felt that killing American civilians could not be justified on religious grounds.[21]

The United States accused him of entering Iraq again in an attempt to get Hussein to negotiate but stated that he was rebuffed on the same terms as his first visit.[13] He was reported killed twice, the second time following a January 8, 2002 airstrike in Zawar Kili, outside of Khost.[22][23]

When Shadi Abdellah was arrested in 2002, he cooperated with authorities, but suggested that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were not as closely linked as previously believed, in large part because al-Zarqawi disagreed with many of the sentiments put forward by al-Walid for al-Qaeda.[24]

Zawahiri continued to speak positively of the role al-Walid played in encouraging Pan-Islamic peace and cooperation.[3]

Libyan Islamist Nomam Benotman also indicated in a letter to bin Laden that he, al-Walid, and Al Qaeda security official Abu Muhammad al-Zayat opposed the 9/11 attacks.[25]

In the 2008 Chilean book El Norte de Africa en la Intriga de al Qaeda, author Carlos Saldivia suggested that al-Walid was involved in the 2003 Casablanca bombings.[26]

Joint Task Force Guantanamo counter-terrorism analysts have identified Al-Walid as having ties to several individuals held in Guantanamo.[27][28][29]

Al-Walid is a cousin to Mohamedou Ould Slahi, one of the Guantanamo captives subjected to the worst torture to be documented at the base.[30] Historian Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files described it as ironic that al-Walid should be free, while al Slahi, whose only tie to al Qaeda was his familial relationship with al-Walid, remains in detention.


  1. "Global Terrorism (SDGT) Designation Update". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "OFAC Sanctions Matrix from". Office of Foreign Assets Control. October 3, 2001. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 al-Zawahiri, Ayman (March 2, 2008). A Treatise Exonerating the Nation of the Pen and the Sword from the Blemish of the Accusation of Weakness and Fatigue. 
  4. "Former al-Qaeda mufti: I condemn ISIL attacks". 
  5. Joscelyn, Thomas (April 10, 2011). "Al Qaeda fighter properly detained at Gitmo, court finds". Long War Journal. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 9/11 Commission (July 22, 2004). "9/11 Commission Report". pp. 251–252. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Brown, Vahid (January 2, 2007). "Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in al-Qa'ida from 1989-2006". Combating Terrorism Center. 
  8. "Former Al-Qaeda leader interviewed on group's affairs, September attacks". BBC Monitoring Middle East. October 18, 2012. 
  9. Windrem, Robert (June 24, 2005). "Al-Qaida finds safe haven in Iran". NBC News. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Benson, Pam (July 10, 2012). "Osama bin Laden confidant released from prison". CNN Security Clearance. 
  11. "Al Qaeda leader Abu Hafs al-Mauritani freed in Mauritania". CBS News. July 9, 2012. 
  12. IntelCenter, "Know Thy Enemy", DVD Series, volume 28
  13. 13.0 13.1 Senate Intelligence Committee, 109th Congress, "Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq", p. 73-75
  14. Miller, Judith (December 30, 2001). "A NATION CHALLENGED: THE RESPONSE; Planning for Terror but Failing to Act". New York Times.  Al-Walid called by his kunya, Abu Hafs.
  15. Richard, Clarke (2004). Against All Enemies. Free Press. pp. 143–146. ISBN 978-0743260459. 
  16. "From Germany to Guantanamo: The Career of Prisoner No. 760". Der Spiegel. 2008-10-09. Archived from the original on 2014-08-13. Retrieved 2014-08-29. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Department of Defense, "Administrative Review Board Hearing for Mohamedou Ould Slahi", p. 184-216
  18. "Security Council committee approves amendment to identifying information of one individual on Consolidated List". United Nations. June 4, 2007. 
  19. 9-11 Commission Final Report, July 22, 2004
  20. Finn, Peter (August 28, 2002). "Al Qaeda finds safety in Iran, say Arab spies / Leaders, fighters living in hotels, they say". SF Gate. Washington Post. 
  21. Bergen, Peter L. (3 August 2021) (in English). The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden: The Biography. Simon & Schuster. p. 141. 
  22. Shahzad, Syed Saleem (August 31, 2002). "Al-Qaeda Tales: The North African Connection". Asia Times. 
  23. Vider, Manuel. "Understanding Terror", p. 15
  24. Bergen, Peter. "The Osama bin Laden I know", 2006. p. 359-422
  25. Tawil, Camille (September 23, 2010). "Noman Benotman criticises al-Qaeda in bin Laden letter". Magharebia. 
  26. Saldivia, Carlos. "El Norte de Africa en la Intriga de Al Qaeda", 2008. p. 207.
  27. OARDEC (27 October 2004). "Summary of Evidence for Combatant Status Review Tribunal -- Al Azani, Saad Masir Mukbl". United States Department of Defense. pp. page 99. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  28. OARDEC (27 May 2005). "Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Azani, Saad Masir Mukbl Al". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 3-4. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  29. OARDEC (16 November 2006). "Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Azani, Jard Al". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 71-73. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  30. Andy Worthington (2014-08-25). "Guantánamo Torture Victim Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Harrowing Memoir to be Published in January 2015". Archived from the original on 2014-08-27. Retrieved 2014-08-29. "Ironically, Abu Hafs is now a free man, while Slahi is still held." 

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