US hands two Guantanamo detainees back to Saudi Arabia
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Monday the United States had transferred two Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of inmates remaining at the US prison in Cuba to 160.
After a "comprehensive review" of their cases, Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and Hamood Abdulla Hamood were "designated for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force," said a statement by Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale.
"The US has made real progress in responsibly transferring Guantanamo detainees despite the burdensome legislative restrictions that have impeded our efforts," said a statement from Paul Lewis, the Defense Department's special envoy for Guantanamo's closure.
He said he and his counterpart from the State Department are "committed" to transferring additional detainees, "to the maximum extent possible as we work to reduce the detainee population and ultimately close the facility."
Though restrictions on inmate transfers from Guantanamo are under debate in Congress, President Barack Obama is trying to accelerate repatriation efforts aimed at closing the prison, nearly 12 years after the facility was opened at a US naval base on the southeastern tip of the island.
Before these latest transfers, there were 82 inmates, including 56 Yemenis, at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release.
On December 5, two Algerians were repatriated from Guantanamo, despite the prisoners' protests they could face persecution there.