4 Yemeni Detainees Transferred From Guantánamo Bay to Saudi Arabia

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The Pentagon announced on Thursday that it had transferred four Yemeni detainees from the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Saudi Arabia, beginning an expected flurry of transfers in the waning days of the Obama administration.

The transfers reduced the remaining detainee population to 55. But 19 are on a list of detainees recommended for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country. Officials have said they expect most of the men on that list to be gone when President Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, leaving about 40 still in the prison.

All four men sent to Saudi Arabia will continue to be held for a period in a custodial rehabilitation program for lower-level Islamist extremists. They were captured as part of the Afghanistan conflict and had been imprisoned by the United States without trial for about 15 years.

They included two men, Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir and Abdullah Yahia Yousf al Shabli, who were approved for transfer by a six-agency task force in 2009 but remained stranded because Yemen was in chaos. The Obama administration gave up on Yemen stabilizing and began resettling Yemeni detainees elsewhere in late 2014.

The other two men, Mohammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanim and Salem Ahmed Hadi, had been deemed too dangerous to transfer in 2009, but were later approved for release by a parolelike board made up of the same six agencies.

In a July 2016 report explaining its decision to recommend transferring Mr. Ghanim to a stable country capable of putting security assurances in place, the board cited his “improved behavior in detention since mid-2013,” his “relative forthrightness with the board regarding his activities prior to detention, to include fighting in Afghanistan with the Taliban,” and his “comprehension of and remorse for the effects of his actions on others.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Charlie Savage