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2 Libyan Guantánamo Inmates Are Transferred to Senegal
The United States military has transferred two Libyan detainees to Senegal from its wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, government officials said on Monday, the first time Senegal has resettled a Guantánamo prisoner.
The men had been imprisoned without trial for about 14 years, and their transfers reduced the detainee population at the prison to 89.
Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Senegal for taking them. He reiterated the Obama administration's arguments that the prison should be closed because it is costly and fuels anti-American sentiments abroad.
"The United States appreciates the generous assistance of the government of Senegal as the United States continues its efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility," Mr. Kerry said in a statement. "This significant humanitarian gesture is consistent with Senegal's leadership on the global stage."
The transfers over the weekend also reduced to 35 the number of detainees recommended for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country. Nine are expected to leave in the next two weeks.
Officials have said they expect to transfer everyone left on that list — many of whom are Yemenis who have been on it for years because of the chaos in their home country — by summer's end.
The Libyan men transferred to Senegal were captured in Pakistan and were turned over to the United States after the beginning of the American-led war in Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They were accused of having trained in Qaeda camps and of then fleeing into Pakistan after the bombing campaign began.
Both of the men were suspected of being longtime members of a Libyan Islamist group — known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or L.I.F.G. — that was dedicated to overthrowing the dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and of having served as explosives trainers at Islamist training camps in Afghanistan. One is missing a leg, and the other is missing fingers, according to leaked military dossiers.
One of the men, Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr, who is 43 or 44, was captured by Pakistani security forces in March 2002 during a raid on a guesthouse in Faisalabad that was suspected of having links to Al Qaeda. The other, Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby, 55, was captured by Pakistani forces in December 2001 with a group of men who were suspected of having fled to the mountains after the battle of Tora Bora.
A six-agency task force that the Obama administration created to review each of the 242 prisoners remaining at Guantánamo when it took office in 2009 recommended transferring Mr. Ghereby if a place could be found that would treat him humanely while also keeping an eye on him.
That task force recommended continuing to hold Mr. Bakr, but in August, a parole-like board, composed of the same six agencies, reviewed his case and decided that his continued detention was no longer necessary.
"While the board acknowledges the detainee's past terrorist-related activities and connections, it found that the risk the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated by: the detainee's significantly compromised health condition; the detainee's record of compliance with camp rules, and positive, constructive role in the detention environment, including mediating concerns raised between other detainees and guard staff; and the detainee's recent engagement with his family illustrating his intent to move forward in a positive manner," the review board said in a statement when it recommend his transfer.
Republicans have frequently criticized President Obama's attempts to whittle down the detainee population. Last month, they seized on testimony by Paul Lewis, the top Pentagon official charged with helping the State Department negotiate transfers, who said, "Unfortunately, there have been Americans that have died because of detainees."
Citing Mr. Lewis's remarks, for example, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, said in a news release that Mr. Obama "should cease his misguided efforts to close the facility and release dangerous terrorists."
Several Afghans who were repatriated from Guantánamo, especially among large blocs of detainees who were transferred by the George W. Bush administration, are known to have later joined or rejoined the Taliban as they continued to wage an insurgency against American troops in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration has used a more individualized review process for deciding whom to transfer, and former detainees released since 2009 have had a significantly lower rate of engaging in militant activity, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Ian Moss, the chief of staff to Lee Wolosky, the top State Department official charged with negotiating transfer deals, said that "nobody transferred under this administration has been assessed to have killed any Americans."
He added, "It's not by luck that we have a lower recidivism rate — it is due to the process we put in place."
[Source: By Charlie Savage, The New York Times, Washington, 04Apr16]
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