As the Obama administration tries to find countries for mostly Yemeni Guantanamo inmates cleared for release, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a special shout-out today to Senegal for agreeing to take a couple of Libyans.
About three dozen detainees are scheduled for transfer by this summer as the administration screens potential homes for the detainees.
Kerry said the U.S. “is very grateful to our partner, the Republic of Senegal, for offering humanitarian resettlement to two individuals formerly in Department of Defense custody at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility.”
The Department of Defense today announced the transfer of Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar.
A 2008 DoD report found Ghereby, a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) “guesthouse operator,” explosives expert and “veteran jihad fighter” who fought with bin Laden at Tora Bora, to be a “high” risk to U.S. interests.
Umar was also deemed a high risk to the U.S. in a 2008 DoD assessment. Also known as “Umar the Bedouin,” was an LIFG and al-Qaeda trainer and explosives expert who helped re-establish training camps that were destroyed in 1998 U.S. bombings.
If released without rehabilitation or close supervision, the report warned, “detainee would immediately seek out prior associates and reengage in hostilities and extremist support activities.”
At Gitmo, the assessment noted, he “has threatened to kill U.S. personnel on several occasions.”
Kerry noted that the pair “were unanimously approved for transfer by six U.S. government departments and agencies, either through the 2009-2010 Executive Order Task Force or the more recent Periodic Review Board process
“Senegal joins 26 different countries which, since 2009, have extended resettlement opportunities to nearly 100 detainees,” he said. “The United States appreciates the generous assistance of the Government of Senegal as the United States continues its efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. This significant humanitarian gesture is consistent with Senegal’s leadership on the global stage.”
“As the president has repeatedly made clear, the administration is determined to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”
Kerry added that the “continued operation of the detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and serving as a propaganda tool for violent extremists.”
“We are taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and to close the detention facility in a responsible manner that protects our national security,” he said.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the U.S. “coordinated with the Government of Senegal to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.
This leaves 89 detainees at Gitmo.
The administration’s envoy overseeing efforts to close Guantanamo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month that, after all detainees cleared for transfer are shipped to other countries, about 45 Gitmo detainees would remain in custody with the intention to transfer them to U.S. soil. That is currently blocked by law.