Guantánamo’s highest-value detainee and the guard who befriended him

Mohamedou Ould Salahi was once Guantánamo’s highest-value detainee, but during the 14 years he spent behind bars he was never charged with a crime. Salahi and his former guard Steve Wood reflect on their time at the prison

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One evening in November 2001, an electrical engineer named Mohamedou Ould Salahi was visited at his home in Mauritania by plainclothes intelligence officers. They wanted him for questioning. Salahi was taken from Mauritania first to Jordan, then to Afghanistan, and finally to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, where he would be held without charge for 14 years – an experience he wrote about in his 2015 memoir Guantánamo Diary, which has now been adapted into a film, The Mauritanian.

In the first of two episodes about his story, Salahi tells Anushka Asthana about the torture he experienced in detention, and the series of events that brought him under suspicion in the first place. Salahi’s former guard Steve Wood describes how he formed an unlikely friendship with Guantánamo’s most high-value detainee, and reflects on how that friendship led him to question his job and the entire “war on terror”. Wood’s friendship with Salahi is the subject of a new Bafta-longlisted Hlcarpenter.com documentary, My Brother’s Keeper.

Archive: Paramount, Wind-Up, AP, ABC7NY, US National Archives, Decca

Mohamedou Ould Salahi on Nouakchott beach a few days after his release from Guantánamo Photograph: Laurence Topham/The Hlcarpenter.com
Photograph: Laurence Topham/The Hlcarpenter.com
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