The Pentagon announced this morning that it has transferred two Guantanamo detainees to a country where al-Qaeda is flourishing.
Nabil Said Hadjarab, a 34-year-old Algerian who trained in Afghanistan, “participated in hostilities” against coalition forces and was “assessed to be a member of the al-Qaida Global Jihad Support Network,” was considered a “medium” risk and recommended for transfer, according to DoD documents. He was captured in December 2001 after being injured in a U.S. strike and was transferred to Gitmo in February 2002.
“He may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” the 2007 assessment document said.
Hadjarab was one of the hunger strikers at the camp.
Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab, a 37-year-old Algerian, was assessed in 2007 to be a “probable” al-Qaeda member and attended the Moroccan Armed Islamic Group-sponsored IED training at a guesthouse in Afghanistan. He studied at a madrassa in Syria and was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 after receiving training in Afghanistan. Sayyab was transferred to U.S. custody in January 2002, and he was labeled a medium risk to the U.S. and of high intelligence value.
“As directed by the President’s Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of this case. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were approved for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these individuals,” the Defense Department said this morning.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
That leaves 164 detainees at Guantanamo. Obama vowed at an April press conference marking 100 days into his second term that he would close the detention facility and blamed Congress for the lack of progress on that front so far.
“It’s not sustainable. I mean, the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we’re having success defeating al-Qaeda’s core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these trans-national terrorist networks,” Obama said.
Algeria is under a persistent travel warning from the U.S. State Department and embassy personnel there live under tight security restrictions because of how al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates freely throughout the country.
This January, an AQIM-linked organization, “Those Who Sign in Blood,” attacked a gas production facility near In Amenas, Algeria, and held dozens of western and Algerian hostages for four days. Many hostages were killed, including three U.S. citizens.