WASHINGTON - The U.S. has transferred a dozen Guantanamo detainees to Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland region as the Obama administration continues to move captives out of the facility in Cuba in preparation for its closure.
The Justice Department said Sunday that a government task force had reviewed each case. Officials considered the potential threat and the government's likelihood of success in court challenges to the detentions.
Over the weekend, four Afghan detainees were transferred to their home country. Two Somali detainees were transferred to authorities in Somaliland, the semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia. Six Yemeni detainees also were sent home.
The Justice Department said that since 2002, more than 560 detainees have departed the military prison in Cuba and 198 remain.
The Justice Department identified those sent home as:
-Afghans Abdul Hafiz, Sharifullah, Mohamed Rahim and Mohammed Hashim.
-Somali detainees Mohammed Soliman Barre and Ismael Arale.
-Yemenis Jamal Muhammad Alawi Mari, Farouq Ali Ahmed, Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, Muhammaed Yasir Ahmed Taher, Fayad Yahya Ahmed al Rami and Riyad Atiq Ali Abdu al Haf.
Mohammed Albasha, Yemen's embassy spokesman, said his embassy "hails the release and transfer of six of its citizens from Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. Yemen will continue its diplomatic dialogue with the United States Government to repatriate the remaining Yemeni detainees."
The administration has announced that five Guantanamo detainees will be tried in a New York federal court and more are likely to be tried in this country.
Up to 100 detainees will be sent to a nearly empty prison in Thomson, Ill.
In Rome, state-run and private television stations said a third Tunisian detainee from Guantanamo Bay is being moved to Italy to face international terrorism charges for having allegedly recruited fighters for Afghanistan.
Private TG5 identified the man as 40-year-old Moez Ben Abdelkader Fezzani, also known as Abou Nassim, and said he was expected to land Sunday night at Milan's Malpensa airport. A prosecutor confirmed Fezzani's name on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
President Barack Obama says he won't set a new deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but does expect the facility to shut down sometime next year.
The administration has abandoned the January 2010 deadline Obama set for closure soon after taking office. Obama has said he realized that things move more slowly in Washington than he expected.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.