US transfers 12 Guantanamo detainees
WASHINGTON: The United States has transferred 12 detainees from its "war on terror" prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to locations in Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland region, the US Department of Justice said Sunday.
Six Yemenis, four Afghans and two Somali detainees were sent to their homelands over the weekend, the DOJ said in a statement.
"These transfers were carried out under individual arrangements between the United States and relevant foreign authorities to ensure the transfers took place under appropriate security measures," it said.
"Consultations with foreign authorities regarding these individuals will continue."
US media reported Friday that a group of Yemenis held at Guantanamo Bay was set to be repatriated, perhaps paving the way for the removal of one of the biggest obstacles in shutting down the prison.
Close to half of the some 200 detainees at Guantanamo are from Yemen, but US officials fear the country lacks the security resources to ensure that Guantanamo returnees will not join militant groups.
There have been months of high-level meetings between senior US and Yemeni government officials, including a visit to Sanaa by deputy CIA director Stephen Kappes, The Washington Post reported.
If the transfer goes well US officials are prepared to repatriate more Guantanamo Yemenis and 34 of those still at the camp have been cleared for release, according to the Post.
One of those already to be allowed back to Yemen was Osama bin Laden's former driver Salim Hamdan, who had been held at Guantanamo for seven years. He was sent to Yemen in December 2008 and released in mid-January.
President Barack Obama acknowledged in November that he would miss the self-imposed January deadline to close down the Guantanamo prison.
US officials said Tuesday that a batch of Guantanamo detainees will be transferred to a maximum-security prison in the northern US state of Illinois.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the administration intends to release or extradite 116 Guantanamo detainees to either countries of origin or to third countries willing to accept them.