By Pam Benson
A senior al Qaeda adviser who had close ties with the terrorist group's leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been released from a prison in Mauritania, according to U.S. officials.
Abu Hafs al-Mauritani fled to Iran when the United States invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He was held under house arrest in Iran until earlier this year, when he was extradited to Mauritania.
According to published reports, Abu Hafs - whose given name is Mahfouz Ould al-Walid - was released from prison after he renounced his ties to al Qaeda and condemned the 9/11 attacks.
A U.S. official who would only speak on the condition of anonymity when discussing sensitive intelligence matters said Tuesday that Abu Hafs "has been largely out of the game for a decade, but there's always the concern he could re-emerge as an ideological figure if he fails to follow through on whatever conditions of release he's made with Mauritanian authorities."
A U.S. counterterrorism official said Abu Hafs' actions will continue to be monitored "to determine if his words match his behavior."