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Profile: Salim Hamdan

Salim Hamdan trial
Salim Hamdan has been at Guantanamo Bay since 2002
Salim Hamdan has always maintained he was nothing more than a chauffeur, paid to drive around Osama Bin Laden.

His personal journey has taken him from Yemen to an al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan and finally to a US war crimes trial in Cuba.

Hamdan, who is reported to be an orphan, was born in Hadramout, Yemen, around 1970.

In 1996 he was earning a modest living as a taxi driver in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa when he was recruited for jihad, or holy war, according to Jonathan Mahler, the author of a book about the Hamdan case.

Islamic militants

Although not particularly religious, Hamdan decided to travel with 35 other Muslims to Tajikistan, where Islamist militants were fighting the Russian-backed government, Mahler wrote in an article for the New York Times.

The would-be militants reached Afghanistan but were turned back at the border with Tajikistan after a six-month journey through the mountains, according to Mahler.

Tora Bora mountains
Salim Hamdan met Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains

It was then that Hamdan and the others turned for help to Osama Bin Laden, who had recently moved to Afghanistan after being expelled from Sudan.

Hamdan's lawyer, Lt Cdr Charles Swift, said his client had worked for Bin Laden on the al-Qaeda leader's farm near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar from 1997.

He said his client earned $200 a month driving the al-Qaeda leader around in a Toyota pick-up truck.

In November 2001, following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Hamdan was captured by Afghan forces at a road block and handed over to the Americans.

In May 2002, he was flown to Guantanamo Bay, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.



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