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US to Release Several Terror Suspects from Guantanamo - 2003-05-05

Defense officials are preparing to release another batch of terrorist suspects from the special U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Defense officials say they expect 12 to 15 detainees, most of them Afghan nationals, to be released from Guantanamo this week and flown back to Afghanistan.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the releases were planned two months ago, but held up for logistical reasons because of the war in Iraq. They deny the detainees are being freed because of a reported complaint from Secretary of State Colin Powell.

U.S. News and World Report magazine says he wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to complain alleged mishandling of the detainees was undermining American efforts to win cooperation in the war on terrorism.

The Powell letter reportedly questioned the detention of several juveniles among the 650 or so detainees from about 40 countries held at the U.S. Navy Base in Cuba.

Defense officials tell VOA they believe some juveniles in the group are expected to be released this week. The officials cannot confirm this, but say the youths were recommended for release before the war with Iraq began.

The new release of detainees is likely to be coupled with the arrival in Cuba of several new terrorist suspects. No details on who these might be.

About two dozen prisoners have been released from Guantanamo. They have included an elderly man released on health grounds. But defense officials say the main reasons for releases are that a detainee may have no further intelligence value, or that a detainee is no longer considered a threat.