Another detainee has been released from Guantanamo Bay, dropping the remaining number of prisoners at the base to 79.
Abdel Malik al-Rahabi, suspected of being one of Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguards, was released Wednesday; he had been at the Guantanamo detention camp since it opened in 2002.
This undated government-approved issued image of Rahabi was taken at some point during his time at Guantanamo Bay:
— Live From Mogadishu (@Daudoo) June 23, 2016
Rahabi, a Yemeni, was released to the government of Montenegro, a small country in the Balkans. This is the second transfer from Guantanamo to Montenegro.
Earlier this week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the discussions with countries that accept prisoners—all of whom have been pre-screened for release by a panel of military and security officials—are sensitive:
“This is difficult diplomatic work because we ask those other countries to impose significant security restrictions against these individuals.”
So far, under Obama’s watch, 28 countries have taken in released Gitmo prisoners. This Miami Herald map indicates which countries have opened their doors to former detainees, and to how many:
— Carol Rosenberg (@carolrosenberg) June 23, 2016
A Pentagon press release thanked the government of Montenegro for taking in Rahabi:
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Montenegro for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Montenegro to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
Rahabi has applied for asylum in Montenegro and therefore is not being detained. According to a statement from the government of Montenegro, Rahabi will eventually be able to move:
“The persons in question will eventually be free to choose the country they want to live in.”
In June, the Washington Post printed an investigative story that determined at least a dozen previously released Guantanamo Bay detainees had committed attacks, sometimes deadly, against American forces in Afghanistan.
Upon arrival at Guantanamo Bay, authorities believed Rahabi to be a member of the so-called “Dirty 30,” a group of especially dangerous alleged terrorists with close ties to Bin Laden.
A panel review approved Rahabi for release in 2014, but it took two years to find a host country. The Obama Administration won’t send Yemeni prisoners back to Yemen due to that country’s ties to terror cells.
Earnest again this week confirmed the Obama administration maintains closing the prison as a top priority, even with 79 more detainees to release before the president’s term ends:
“There is strong unanimity of opinion across the administration that closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay is a national security priority.
And I feel confident in telling you that every member of the President’s national security team, including the Attorney General, supports that goal and believes that it would enhance the national security of our country to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
Sources at the State Department and the White House indicate Rahabi’s release signals more detainee transfers will occur in coming weeks, if not days.