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Two Somali Detainees at Guantanamo Search for New Home


Two Somali terror suspects detained at the high-security US camp for enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have been cleared for release, but remain in search of a suitable new home. Mohammed Hussein Abdullah and his son-in-law, Mohammed Suleyman Barre, were arrested in Pakistan, where they had refugee status, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. They are no longer under suspicion, but US authorities have delayed their release. One of them will meet with an attorney next week to try to determine where they want to go. It will be the prisoner’s first contact with the outside world in almost six years. Human Rights Watch director of terrorism and counter-terrorism Joanne Mariner says there is concern about returning them to Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland, where the two detainees have relatives.

“The government would send him home, except that Somalia is not really a place you can send people home to, and there should really be efforts made to resettle them either in Europe or back in Pakistan or in other countries,” she pointed out.

Somaliland declared its political independence from the Somali Republic in 1991, but has failed to win diplomatic recognition from any single country or international organization. Some reports say that this lack of recognition is delaying the two men’s release. However, Mariner says she thinks the long-running battles between Somalia’s Islamist rebels and the transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops, has been the main complicating factor.

“I don’t know if the Somali government is willing to take them, but Somalia is obviously a place we should not be returning them to right now. It’s in the middle of an armed conflict, and the two who were picked up in Pakistan actually have mandate refugee status, so they’re not supposed to be returned to Somalia,” she noted.

As many as four US-held detainees at Guantanamo prison have Somali origin. But Mariner says the other two, Gouled Hassan Dourad, arrested in 2004 and set to Guantanamo two years later, and Abdullahi Sudi Arale, who arrived there last year, are not likely to be released soon.

“One of them (Goulad) was among the 14 so-called high value detainees who had been in CIA custody, so I would say the odds are good that he is going to be charged at some point and prosecuted, either before a military commission or before a federal court if they are brought to the US and prosecuted in federal court. I believe that Goulad Hassan is accused of casing a US base in Djibouti for a possible attack, and he’s accused of association with Al-Qaida. There hasn’t been much at all said about the fourth detainee, Abdullahi Arale, but at any rate, I am also dubious whether he’ll be released any time soon. It’s possible that he was in CIA custody prior to coming to Guantanamo, yet the CIA hasn’t acknowledged it,” she said.

Mariner says her organization Human Rights Watch takes a position that the US government should shut down Guantanamo and offenders suspected of serious crimes should be brought to the United States for trial. She says the Bush administration has been prodded to do so by US legislators, officials within the administration, foreign leaders, and other human rights critics. Mariner says such a move is highly unlikely in 2008, a US election year, but will most likely be decided by the next US president. All three of the current leading candidates, Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain, have said repeatedly on the record that they would close Guantanamo.