US halted Guantanamo inmates' transfer to Oman due to Hamas October 7 attack

Pause may have been politically motivated and no new date for transfer has been set, reports say

No new date has been set for the transfer of inmates at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Getty Images
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The US was due to transfer 11 detainees from its Guantanamo Bay detention camp to Oman in October, but plans were aborted at the last minute, apparently due to the Hamas-led attack on Israel, news organisations reported this week.

NBC, which first reported on the issue, quoted four US officials who said no new date has been set for the inmates' transfer, more than seven months later.

The New York Times reported that the prisoners, all Yemeni citizens, have not been charged with crimes and had been cleared for transfer to Oman by national security officials.

US President Joe Biden's administration notified Congress of the transfer, as required by law.

But administration officials told the Times that Democratic members of Congress had voiced concern over the timing of the transfer, which would have followed Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel.

The Biden administration agreed to delay the transfer right after the detainees had been taken to the airport, the officials told the Times.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups attacked Israel on October 7 last year, killing up to 1,200 people, according to government officials.

Israel has since conducted military operations in Gaza, where more than 35,600 people have been killed, according to health officials in the enclave.

Sources told NBC that they believed the pause on the transfer was politically motivated.

The Pentagon did not immediately comment on the matter.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told the Times that Oman is a “trusted partner” that “co-operates closely” on several issues, “including on the rehabilitation of Guantanamo detainees”.

There are 30 men being held at Guantanamo Bay, according to the Times.

Sixteen of them have not been charged with crimes and have been recommended for transfer to another country.

If the 11 Yemenis had been transferred to Oman, the detention camp population would have dipped below 20 for the first time – a goal for Mr Biden as he continues his re-election campaign against Donald Trump.

The administration said at the start of Mr Biden's presidency that it wanted to close the military facility in Cuba by the end of his term, after Mr Trump halted all transfers during his mandate.

Several transfers have taken place since 2021.

Updated: May 21, 2024, 10:03 PM