US approves release of two Guantanamo detainees

Osama Bin Laden's bodyguard, Sanad Yislam al-Kazim, has been held in Guantanamo for 17 years

The Pentagon approved the release of two two detainees held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention centre. AP
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The US government has approved the release of two more of the 39 wartime detainees held for years at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to rulings posted by the Pentagon.

Yemeni Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi and Afghanistan native Assadullah Haroon Gul, known as Haroon al-Afghani, won approval for their release on October 7, documents posted by the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board said.

Kazimi, 51, who was a low-level bodyguard for Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, has been in Guantanamo for 17 years.

Kazimi was detained in Dubai in November 2002 and handed over to US officials the next year, interrogated by the CIA in Afghanistan and then transferred to Guantanamo in 2004, where he was judged for years too much of a threat to be released.

Given the unstable situation in Yemen, the review board, which involves high-level US security officials, recommended Kazimi be sent to neighboring Oman, which has a rehabilitation program for Guantanamo detainees.

After years of Kazimi being held at Guantanamo without trial as a significant threat, the release order cited his "lack of a leadership role in an extremist organization and the limited timeframe of his associations with (Al-Qaeda) members."

Gul, 40, has been in Guantanamo since June 2007 as a militia commander and Al-Qaeda courier, originally labelled a "dangerous terror suspect."

The review board rejected his release one year ago, but the new ruling cited his "lack of a leadership role in extremist organizations and his lack of a clear ideological basis for his prior conduct" as well as his "remorse for the effects of past activities."

The new rulings brings the number of Guantanamo detainees judged fit for release to 12 out of the 39 who remain in the prison.

The US State Department has to negotiate arrangements with potential recipient countries to accept and monitor them.

In Gul's case that could mean handing him over to the Al-Qaeda-allied Taliban government that seized control of Afghanistan in August.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has appeared willing to release more Guantanamo detainees after his predecessor Donald Trump placed an effective hold on releases.

Of the 27 others at Guantanamo not approved for release, 10, including September 11 attacks mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are currently facing trial.

Two others have been convicted, and the status of the others remains in limbo.

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Updated: October 14, 2021, 5:26 PM