U.S. Sends Home 33 Detainees From Guantanamo Bay

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 18, 2006

Thirty-three detainees who had been held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were returned to their home countries over the past week, part of a government effort to reduce the facility's population to a core group of terrorism suspects who could be held indefinitely.

The Defense Department announced yesterday that it transferred 17 detainees to their home countries over the weekend: seven to Afghanistan, five to Yemen, three to Kazakhstan, one to Libya and one to Bangladesh. Military officials announced Thursday that 16 detainees were sent to Saudi Arabia last week.

With the transfer of the 33 detainees -- nearly 8 percent of the facility's population -- Guantanamo now holds about 395 detainees, almost none of whom have been charged with a crime. State Department officials have been working to reducesignificantly reduce the number of Guantanamo detainees through lengthy negotiations with other countries, although the United States is unwilling to release detainees into the custody of nations where they would likely be abused, tortured or killed.

A large percentage of the remaining population is from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

According to Pentagon figures, approximately 380 detainees have departed Guantanamo for at least 29 countries since 2002, meaning the facility's current population represents slightly more than half of the suspects captured and transferred to U.S. custody in Cuba. An additional 85 detainees are slated for transfer or release to their home nations pending the outcome of diplomatic discussions. Their departure would leave the number of detainees at Guantanamo at about 310.

"Departure of these remaining detainees approved for transfer or release is subject to ongoing discussions between the United States and other nations," according to a Defense Department news release yesterday. "The United States does not desire to hold detainees for any longer than necessary."

Guantanamo did not accept new detainees from September 2004 to this past September, when 14 high-value suspects who had been in secret CIA custody were moved to Cuba.

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