MIAMI (AP) — Five men who have been held for more than 13 years at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been released and sent to the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said Sunday.
The five Yemeni men were accepted for resettlement in the Persian Gulf nation after U.S. authorities determined they no longer posed a threat, the Defense Department said in a statement. Their release brings the Guantanamo prison population to 107.
The released men, who arrived in the UAE on Saturday, were identified as Ali Ahmad Muhammad al-Razihi, Khalid Abd-al-Jabbar Muhammad Uthman al-Qadasi, Adil Said al-Hajj Ubayd al-Busays, Sulayman Awad Bin Uqayl al-Nahdi, and Fahmi Salem Said al-Asani. All were arrested fleeing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Most of the five men are described as low-level fighters in American military assessments. Al-Razihi, however, was suspected of being a possible bodyguard to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
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None of the men had been charged with a crime but had been detained as enemy combatants. They could not be sent to their homeland because the U.S. considers Yemen too unstable to accept prisoners from Guantanamo amid an ongoing Saudi-led war against Shiite rebels there.
Officials in the United Arab Emirates did not immediately comment Monday on the men’s resettlement, nor was there any word about their arrival in the country’s state-run media. In July 2008, the seven-emirate nation repatriated UAE citizen and Guantanamo prisoner Abdulah Alhamiri at the same time Afghanistan and Qatar each accepted one prisoner a piece.
The United Arab Emirates is a major regional military ally for the U.S. The country also is part of its coalition targeting the Islamic State group with airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
In June, neighboring Oman accepted six Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo, including Emad Abdullah Hassan, who had been on hunger strikes since 2007 in protest of his confinement without charge since 2002.
President Barack Obama has reduced the number of prisoners at Guantanamo by more than half since he took office. He had sought to close the detention center but faced opposition to Congress. The administration is now seeking to move detainees to the United States amid intense opposition.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.