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US Guantanamo Panel Reviews Case of Alleged al-Qaida Bombmaker

  • Reuters

FILE - A U.S. soldier stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, March 30, 2010.

FILE - A U.S. soldier stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, March 30, 2010.

A suspected al-Qaida bombmaker held at Guantanamo Bay military prison for almost 13 years on Thursday faced a U.S. national security board weighing whether he should remain there.

Tariq Mahmud Ahmad Muhammad al-Sawah, a 57-year-old Egyptian, is suspected of having designed bombs used to attack U.S. targets. He was captured after fighting in Afghanistan and has been at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba, since May 2002.

Sawah's hearing before the Periodic Review Board was to re-examine whether he should continue to be held without charge or be transferred, possibly back to Egypt.

A detainee profile from the Defense Department said Sawah had been hostile to guards during his first two years at Guantanamo Bay.

“There are no indications he is interested in re-engaging in extremist activity” but he still has wide knowledge of explosives,” the profile said.

If returned to Egypt, Sawah probably would live there temporarily while seeking to resettle in another country, it said.

Little more than five minutes of the hearing was carried on closed-circuit television from Guantanamo Bay to a viewing site near the Pentagon.

The transmission showed Sawah, a heavyset figure in a dark shirt, seated at a table with his lawyer, his personal military representatives and other officials. The national security panel was not shown.

A representative said in a brief statement that Sawah was willing to answer any questions from the board.

U.s. President Barack Obama has promised to close the internationally condemned prison, which was opened in 2002 to house detainees in the U.S. campaign against al-Qaida.

The administration moved 28 prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in 2014, the most since 2009. Five Yemenis were transferred last week and 122 detainees are still at the prison.

Fifty-four of them, including 47 Yemenis, have been approved for resettlement. The rest are considered too dangerous to release.

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