Two Guantanamo Bay detainees have been transferred from the US military prison to Ghana, the Pentagon said Wednesday, bringing the controversial facility’s remaining population down to 105.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby, both from Yemen, are the first detainees to be sent anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross told AFP.
The men had been recommended for transfer as early as January 2010, according to their leaked case files published by The New York Times. But bureaucratic hurdles and Yemen’s collapse into civil war meant the men could not be sent home.
The duo will be monitored and the Pentagon is confident they do not pose a threat, Ross said. They arrived in Ghana earlier Wednesday.
“There are security assurances that have been agreed on,” Ross said, without giving details.
“The United States is grateful to the government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
According to his leaked file, Dhuby had lived his entire life in Saudi Arabia but claimed Yemeni citizenship. He was a “probable” member of Al-Qaeda and allegedly received militant training in Afghanistan.
His file also states he “probably” engaged in hostile activities against coalition forces.
Atef’s file states he was an admitted member of the Taliban and fought under Osama bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade. He allegedly participated in hostile actions against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama pledged to shut Guantanamo — reviled by critics as a stain on America’s moral character that has helped fuel anti-US jihadist propaganda — when he took office in 2009, but his efforts have failed and time is quickly ticking down on his presidency.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter last month approved the transfer of 17 low-risk detainees from Guantanamo; Atef and Dhuby come from that group.
Since 2002, a total of 779 detainees have been held at Guantanamo in connection with America’s “war on terror.”
Guantanamo Bay sits on the southeastern tip of Cuba but is completely fenced off from the communist island.
Inmates are kept without recourse to regular US legal processes and some likely will die in prison without ever being convicted of a crime.