March 6, 2015 / 11:23 PM / 4 years ago

Detainee traded for Bergdahl may have contacted Taliban: officials

(Reuters) - U.S. spy agencies are examining intelligence reports that one of five Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo prison and sent to Qatar as part of a deal to free U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl last year may have re-established contact with a militant group, U.S. officials said on Friday.

So far, only one of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies has formally concluded that the Taliban leader is suspected of re-engagement, two U.S. officials told Reuters. But other agencies will be closely monitoring him for further corroboration, said the officials, who asked not to be identified.

Republicans who control the U.S. Congress are demanding that President Barack Obama not free any more people from Guantanamo, the U.S. prison on Cuba was set up to house suspected terrorists caught by the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

They say there is a big risk of the released prisoners rejoining the fight against the United States.

A report published by the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) this week said that one of the 17 agencies under the directorate judged that one of the prisoners released from Guantanamo in the last year had re-engaged with the Taliban.

The U.S. officials said the person referred to was one of the five sent to Qatar. “That detainee’s status will be continually evaluated and may be reflected in future reports, depending on the information available and the views within the Intelligence Community at that time,” the DNI report said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to name the released prisoner and did not identify the agency which, unlike the other 16 DNI agencies, judged there was evidence to justify suspicion that he had “re-engaged” with the Taliban.

It was a rare instance of the DNI issuing a report that did not reflect a consensus view among the agencies.

The DNI report, released on Thursday, assessed that none of the 27 prisoners released from Guantanamo since last September and sent to foreign countries had resumed contacts with violent extremist groups.

The five senior Taliban members were sent to Qatar last May in return for the release of Bergdahl. He had been captured by Afghan militants in 2009 near the remote U.S. Army post where he was stationed and held prisoner for five years.

The officials indicated that the Taliban leader suspected of re-engaging with other militants had not left Qatar, but was suspected of have communication with other militants.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by David Storey and David Gregorio

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