Mon, Dec 22, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Four Guantanamo detainees released to Afghan officials

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a ceremony for International Human Rights Day in Kabul on Dec. 14.

Photo: Reuters

Four Afghans held for more than a decade in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent home to Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Saturday, in the latest step of a push by US President Barack Obama’s administration to close the facility.

The men were flown to Kabul overnight aboard a US military aircraft and released to Afghan authorities, the first such transfer of its kind to the nation since 2009, a US official said.

Obama promised to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago, citing the damage it inflicted on the US’ image around the world. However, he has been unable to do so, partly because of the US Congress.

The repatriation of the four Afghans, identified as “low-level detainees” who were cleared for transfer long ago, had been planned for months.

However, in a measure of what one senior US official described as an improving relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Washington went ahead with the transfer after he formally requested it.

The men — identified as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir — were detained on suspicion of being members of the Taliban or affiliated groups.

However, a second senior US official said: “Most if not all of these accusations have been discarded and each of these individuals at worst could be described as low-level, if even that.”

The Afghan government gave the US “security assurances” for the treatment of the men and was expected to reunite them with their families, the official said.

Obama said in a TV interview set for broadcast yesterday that he did not consider the cyberattack on Sony Corp that has been blamed on North Korea to be an act of war, but rather cybervandalism.

Obama and his advisers are weighing up how to respond to the incident, which prompted Sony to withdraw a movie about North Korea called The Interview.

“No, I don’t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cybervandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately,” Obama told CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley.

Obama also said the US might put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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