Six Guantanamo Bay prisoners were transferred to Uruguay for resettlement, the US government says. Source: AAP
SIX Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been transferred to Uruguay for resettlement, the US government says.
THE six - four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian - are the first prisoners transferred to South America from the US base in Cuba, part of a flurry of recent releases amid a renewed push by US President Barack Obama to close the prison.Uruguayan President Jose Mujica agreed to accept the men as a humanitarian gesture and said they would be given help getting established in a country with a small Muslim population.All six were detained as suspected militants with ties to al-Qaeda in 2002 but were never charged. They have been cleared for release since at least 2010 but they could not be sent home and have languished as the US struggled to find countries willing to accept them."We are very grateful to Uruguay for this important humanitarian action, and to President Mujica for his strong leadership in providing a home for individuals who cannot return to their own countries," US State Department envoy Clifford Sloan said.Mujica had agreed to take the men in January. Obama administration officials have been frustrated the transfer took so long and blame outgoing Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel for not approving the move sooner. They said the deal sat for months on Hagel's desk, awaiting his signature as required by law, but the Pentagon didn't send the notification of the transfer to Congress until July.By then, the transfer had become an issue in Uruguay's political election and Uruguayan officials decided to postpone it until after the October 26 vote.The men's release brings the total number of prisoners at Guantanamo to 136 - the lowest number since the first month the prison opened in January 2002.Obama pledged to close the prison upon taking office but was blocked by Congress, which banned sending prisoners to the US for any reason.The restrictions on sending them overseas have been eased and the US has released 19 prisoners so far this year. Officials say several more are expected by the end of the year.