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US Sends 6 Guantanamo Prisoners to Uruguay

  • VOA News

The United States has sent six men who were being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Uruguay.

The Pentagon says the four Syrians, one Tunisian and one Palestinian will be resettled in Uruguay as refugees. One of the Syrians released was 43-year-old Jihad Diyab, who had staged a hunger strike and sought a U.S. court order to block prison officials from force-feeding him.

All six had been detained as suspected militants with ties to al-Qaida but were never charged. They were initially cleared for release months ago, but bureaucratic delays and political concerns related to last month's presidential election in Uruguay postponed the transfer.

They are the first Guantanamo prisoners to be released to South America. Their release brings the total number of prisoners at Guantanamo to 136.

They were taken to a military hospital in Montevideo for examinations, with the expectation they then would be freed.

The others released Sunday were identified as Syrians Ahmed Ahjam, Ali Hussein Shaabaan and Omar Abou Faraj, Palestinian Mohammed Tahanmatan and Tunisian Abdoul Ourgy.

This year, 19 prisoners have transferred out of Guantanamo and officials say more could be released by year-end. Another 67 of those remaining at Guantanamo have been cleared for release or transfer, but they can not go to their homelands for fear of persecution, lack of security or some other reason.

The biggest remaining group at Guantanamo, more than half, are Yemeni detainees. But the United States does not want them to return to Yemen because of its chaotic security situation.

The prison opened in January 2002, four months after the al-Qaida terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

President Barack Obama took office nearly six years ago promising to shut the prison, citing its damage to America's image around the world. But he has been unable to do so, partly because of obstacles imposed by the U.S. Congress.

The United States has also found it difficult to find countries willing to accept the prisoners.

Some information for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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