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Nine Guantanamo detainees transferred to Saudi Arabia: Pentagon
Last Updated: 2016-04-17 10:39 | Xinhua
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The Pentagon announced on Saturday that nine Guantanamo Bay detainees had been transferred to Saudi Arabia, cutting the population of the notorious U.S. detention facility in Cuba to 80.

The nine detainees include Tariq Ali Abdullah Ahmed Ba Odah, a Yemeni cleared for transfer by the U.S. government in 2009 who had been on a hunger strike since 2007 in protest of his indefinite detention without charge or trial, according to a list of transferred detainees released by the Pentagon.

"The United States is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. effort to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," said the Pentagon in a statement.

According to the U.S. TV network NBC News, which quoted U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity, the Saudis agreed to accept the detainees after "lengthy negotiations," marking a potential turning point in the United States' often fraught relations with Saudi Arabia.

The transfer also came ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh next week to meet with Gulf leaders to discuss the campaign against the extremist Islamic State group.

In his apparent last-ditch effort to seek cooperation from a hostile Republican-controlled Congress to close the Guantanamo detention facility, Obama unveiled a long-stalled closure plan in February.

According to the plan, some of the detainees still held in Guantanamo would be transferred to other countries, and the Obama administration would review the threat posed by detainees who were not eligible for transfers and identify those eligible for military trials.

However, the closure plan left unanswered a crucial question as to where the administration would put some detainees ineligible for transfers inside the United States.

Republicans in the Congress had already pledged to fight against bringing any Guantanamo detainees back to the United States.

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