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Most Pakistanis in Guantanamo Lockup Not Linked to al-Qaida, says Islamabad

Pakistan says the majority of its citizens being held at a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are not linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told reporters Monday that a team of Pakistani anti-terrorism experts recently interrogated the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He says there are up to 58 Pakistani nationals currently detained at the American detention facility there.

"Our impression is that the majority of those prisoners are not connected with al-Qaida," said Mr. Khan. "We have informed the American authorities, and we are discussing their release and repatriation. A few of them might still be retained for questioning, but we feel that, even they, probably do not have any connection with al-Qaida."

Pakistani officials say they have also conducted background checks on these prisoners, as well as on their families inside Pakistan.

The United States is holding an estimated 600 al-Qaida and Taleban suspects at the Guantanamo Bay facility.

Most of these prisoners were captured in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led war against the al-Qaida network and the ousted Taleban regime.

Thousands of Pakistani militants crossed the Afghan border to fight alongside the Taleban. Most of them were either killed or arrested. An estimated 1,000 Pakistanis were arrested following the collapse of the Taleban.

Current Afghan authorities this year have released some 300 of the Pakistani prisoners they held. Officials in both the countries say preparations are underway to repatriate another group of these detainees.