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Rendition Circuit: 7-12 June 2004

 

Aborted rendition of Laid Saidi, Afghanistan to Tunisia and back

On 9 June 2004, Laid Saidi was rendered from Afghanistan, where he had been held for over a year in various secret prisons (including the 'Salt Pit' outside Kabul), to Tunisia. The CIA evidently believed that Saidi was Tunisian, based on a fake passport he was carrying at the time of his initial capture in May 2003, and were attempting to transfer him to the custody of Tunisian intelligence. However, on arrival in Tunisia the CIA's mistake became clear (he is in fact Algerian), and he was immediately returned to Afghanistan on the same aircraft, where he was held for a further two-and-a-half months. This aborted rendition was carried out onboard a Gulfstream III executive jet with tail number N982RK. This aircraft was contracted by the CIA as part of its overall outsourcing of some logistical elements of the rendition program, through the prime contractor DynCorp/Computer Sciences Corporation, and the subcontractors Capital Aviation and Richmor Aviation. Just two weeks prior to this circuit, the aircraft had carried out the rendition of Khaled el-Masri from Afghanistan, where he had also been held in the 'Salt Pit', to Albania.

 

 

Analysis

N982RK left its home base of Columbia County Airport (K1B1) in the evening of 7 June 2004, flying to Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD), where it stopped for just over an hour. It then flew cross-Atlantic, landing in Luton, UK (EGGW) in the early morning of 8 June. After 50 minutes on the ground for refuelling, where a billing document for the circuit shows that the crew bought newspapers, the aircraft flew to Larnaca, Cyprus (LCLK), landing at 11:37 GMT. As with el-Masri's rendition two weeks previously, the aircraft's crew and the rendition team stayed overnight in Cyprus, with the billing document showing that they paid for 'VIP services' from a servicing company at the airport (Skylink), as well as transport to and from the Golden Bay Beach Hotel, where eight single rooms were reserved. The next day, the aircraft left Cyprus in the early morning, and flew direct to Kabul, Afghanistan (OAKB), overflying Lebanese and Iranian airspace and landing after a flight of nearly four hours.

While on the ground in Afghanistan, Laid Saidi was taken from the secret prison and loaded onboard the aircraft. It then took off, flying to Amman, Jordan (OJAM) for a refuelling stop. From Jordan, the aircraft with Saidi onboard flew to Tunis-Carthage International Airport, Tunisia (DTTA), landing at 19:27 GMT. It was on the ground in Tunisia for three-and-a-half hours, while the mistake over Saidi's nationality became clear, before taking off again and returning to Jordan. The billing document shows that an 'urgent permit' was requested for landing in Amman, which points to the unplanned nature of the flight. The aircraft staying Amman until mid-morning on 10 June, where it returned to Kabul, landing in the afternoon. Here, Saidi was off-loaded and the aircraft flew to Baku, Azerbaijan (UBBB), where additional security was requested as it stayed overnight. N982RK left Baku in the early morning of 11 June, and flew to Palma de Mallorca (LEPA), where eight rooms in the Marriott hotel were reserved. These rooms were presumably booked in anticipation of some 'rest and relaxation' after a successful rendition to Tunisia. However, in the event the aircraft did not stay overnight on the island, but refuelled and left within 90 minutes, heading back to Washington via Gander International Airport, Canada (CYQX), and then landing back at Columbia County Airport in the early hours of 12 June 2004.

 

Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C