Washington – The Pentagon on Monday announced the transfer of two Libyan inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre to Senegal.
The two men – Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby, 55, and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar, born in 1972 – had been in the controversial US military jail since 2002.
Both had ties to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and al-Qaeda, according to their leaked prisoner files.
“The United States is grateful to the government of Senegal for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The latest transfers mean the remaining population at the controversial jail is now 89. Thirty-five of these inmates have been approved for transfer to other countries, though the complex process is only completed after rehabilitation and monitoring measures are implemented.
President Barack Obama in February presented Congress with a new plan to close Guantanamo, which he says serves only to stoke anti-US resentment and fuel jihadi recruitment.
But Republican lawmakers firmly oppose the jail’s closure, especially because Obama wants to transfer the highest-risk detainees to a site in the United States, so his plan is likely doomed.
“The administration is determined to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The continued operation of the detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and serving as a propaganda tool for violent extremists,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
Senegal is one of 26 countries that have agreed to resettle nearly 100 detainees since 2009.
“This significant humanitarian gesture is consistent with Senegal’s leadership on the global stage,” Kerry said.
Mahjour Umar had been held on suspicion of helping re-establish al-Qaeda camps following their destruction by US bombings in 1998, and was identified as an explosives and weapons trainer, according to his leaked file.
Ghereby’s file states that he had attended multiple training camps and received explosives training from a senior Al-Qaeda explosives expert.
The Pentagon said the men were approved for transfer after multiple agencies reviewed their cases.
Guantanamo Bay is a US naval base carved out of a remote chunk of land on the tip of southeastern Cuba. The administration of George W Bush opened the prison to hold terror suspects soon after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
In all, it has housed about 780 inmates over the years.
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