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Pentagon Process Underway that Could Result in Guantanamo Releases

The Pentagon says a process is under way that could see more al-Qaida and Taleban detainees released from the special U.S. detention center for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

A flurry of published news reports indicates scores of Guantanamo detainees, perhaps more than a hundred, could be released in the coming weeks, some this month and others in January.

A Pentagon spokeswoman confirms a process is under way that could see more detainees released, including juveniles. She says U.S. officials are engaged in talks with various foreign governments about further releases.

But the spokeswoman [Lieutenant Commander Barbara Burfiend] describes as speculative any effort to spell out in advance how many might be sent back to their home countries.

Some 660 suspected al-Qaida and Taleban fighters are currently held at Guantanamo, where the special terrorist detention facility opened some two years ago.

Since the camp opened, 88 detainees have been released, 84 of them set free and four others sent to their home countries for continued imprisonment.

The latest reports about possible new releases say it is unclear whether the next detainees who are transferred to their home countries will be freed on return or re-imprisoned locally.

U.S. officials have defended their treatment of the detainees, saying it is in line with international conventions.

But there has been international criticism of the legal limbo in which the detainees have been held without any criminal charges and have been denied access to lawyers.