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US Transfers Yemeni Terror Suspect from Guantanamo

FILE - The sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 13, 2009.

The U.S. Defense Department says it has transferred a Yemeni terror suspect from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of the Italian government.

A statement Sunday said the transfer of Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman was approved unanimously by the Guantanamo Review Task Force after a comprehensive review of the case. The statement said the task force examined key factors, including potential security issues, before approving the transfer.

Authorities say Suleiman's departure leaves 78 detainees at Guantanamo, a controversial facility that President Barack Obama pledged to close during his time in office.

Obama issued an executive order in 2009 aimed at the eventual closing of Guantanamo, which critics argue has housed hundreds of prisoners, some of them for years, without formal charges and without trial. His efforts have been strongly opposed by Republican lawmakers who have cited the potential security risks posed by closing the facility.

Suleiman, now 41, was originally brought to the facility in 2002 and first recommended for transfer in 2010.

U.S. documents published by The New York Times in 2008 described the Saudi-born Suleiman as a militant trained in Afghanistan who fought with the Taliban. He is also alleged to have been one of seven Mujahideen who traveled with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2001 as the terror leader fled the U.S.-led alliance that hunted him in the weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The document also describes him as having been schooled as a medic who was trained in Kandahar, Afghanistan to make poisons, and who earlier fought in Bosnia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.