Tag Archives: Guantánamo

US releases two Guantánamo detainees nearly six years after transfer approval

The announcement of Wednesday’s transfer marks the start of a spate of releases of 17 men from Guantánamo Bay.

The US has released two Yemeni men from Guantánamo Bay on Wednesday after nearly 14 years’ detention and nearly six years after the Obama administration approved them for transfer.

But neither Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef nor Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby will return to their native Yemen. Instead, the US sent both men to Ghana, where they are expected to be freed upon arrival.

Bin Atef and Dhuby, both in their mid-30s, are among the longest-held Guantánamo detainees.

The announcement of the transfer on Wednesday marks the start of a spate of releases of 17 men the administration intends to free from Guantánamo Bay in January, part of a final initiative by Barack Obama, seeking to empty the detention camp before leaving office. Yet there is deep skepticism, even within his own administration, over whether Obama can fulfill his long-frustrated pledge to close Guantánamo.

A US official told the Guardian that quiet negotiations with Ghana to take Guantánamo detainees unfolded over the past year.

Neither Bin Atef nor Dhuby is considered a senior member of al-Qaida. According to leaked military documents from 2006, Dhuby “probably” fought at the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan alongside al-Qaida, yet the military recommended in 2006 to transfer him out of custody.

At the time, it recommended continued detention for bin Atef, whom the documents describe as an “admitted member of the Taliban” and a fighter in Osama bin Laden’s Afghanistan-based 55th Arab Brigade.

By January 2010, however, a multi-agency review undertaken at the start of the Obama administration decided both men posed a minimal risk to national security and ought to be transferred. But years of a self-imposed ban on transferring detainees to Yemen, congressional acrimony and internal bureaucratic “foot-dragging”, according to the US official, kept both men at Guantánamo, alongside dozens of others.

The transfers reduced the Guantánamo detainee population to 105 men. Even if Obama’s plan to close the facility wins the unlikely support of Congress, about half that population would remain detained indefinitely in the continental United States.



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