President Barack Obama plans to resume transfers of inmates from Guantanamo Bay to other countries in a fresh bid to close the controversial US prison, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In the coming weeks, Obama will try to accelerate efforts to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo partly by lifting a long-running ban on sending Yemeni inmates to their home country, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US officials.
The White House, the Pentagon and officers at the US-run prison in Guantanamo Bay all declined to comment on the report.
Obama will argue in a speech Thursday that closing the detention center is vital to Washington’s efforts to counter terror threats, but will not lay out details of the transfer plans, the officials told the Journal.
The United States holds 166 detainees at Guantanamo, with 86 cleared for transfer, including 56 from Yemen, according to Pentagon officials.
The transfers to Yemen will likely be carried out at a slow pace, starting with two or three detainees at a time, to ensure Yemen can keep track of the terror suspects and prevent them from joining extremist groups, a US official told the paper.
As a result, transfers to Yemen could still be months away.
The detention center was set up after the attacks of September 11, 2001 for militants captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere, as part of ex-president George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”
Rights groups and foreign governments have labeled Guantanamo a legal “blackhole,” as most detainees there have been held behind bars for years without charge or trial.
Obama had vowed to shutter the prison when he took office in 2009 but ran into strong opposition from Republicans in Congress, who introduced strict requirements governing any transfers or releases of inmates from Guantanamo.
The attempt to try again to close Guantanamo comes amid a growing hunger strike among the detainees, which has put the prison back in the spotlight.
Nearly two thirds of the remaining detainees have joined a hunger strike that began February 6.
Thirty-two of them are being fed through tubes, according to prison authorities.