U.S. transfers two Guantanamo detainees to Algeria
The United States on Thursday said it had transferred two men from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the government of Algeria as part of its ongoing effort to close the controversial prison.
The Pentagon announced the transfer of Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab, leaving 164 detainees still at the prison, including 84 others cleared for release years ago.
The Obama administration first announced plans to repatriate the two inmates to Algeria last month, resuming the transfer of detainees for the first time in nearly a year.
It was not immediately clear how long the two men had been held by the U.S. government. No personal details were immediately available from the Pentagon or the White House.
The Pentagon said the decision to release the two men came after a comprehensive review by an interagency task force.
“As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were approved for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
President Barack Obama has vowed to close the prison, which has held dozens of prisoners – most without charge – for more than a decade. But the process has dragged on for years.
Obama promised to close the facility during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the U.S. reputation around the world, but he has been unable to do so in 4 1/2 years in office, in part because of resistance by Congress.
The prison camp was established during the presidency of George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States to house foreign terrorism suspects.
A hunger strike involving a majority of the inmates – and daily force-feeding of dozens – has fueled the calls to shut the detention center. Last month lawmakers blasted its cost, about $2.7 million per prisoner per year, compared with $70,000 per inmate at maximum-security federal prisons.
The last prisoner transferred out of Guantanamo was Omar Khadr, the youngest inmate and last Westerner held at the base. He was sent last September to finish his sentence in his native Canada.