updated 12/17/2006 7:52:14 PM ET 2006-12-18T00:52:14

The U.S. military sent 18 Guantanamo prisoners to their home nations during the weekend, reducing the captive population at its Navy base in Cuba to approximately 395, the Department of Defense said on Sunday.

Seven captives were transferred to Afghanistan, six to Yemen, three to Kazakhstan and one each to Libya and Bangladesh, the Pentagon said in a news release.

“These detainees were recommended for transfer or release by multiple review board processes conducted at Guantanamo Bay,” the statement said.

The Pentagon has never given a precise figure of prisoners there, citing security concerns.

The United States has recently picked up the pace for releasing captives held at Guantanamo, where the treatment of suspected al-Qaida and Taliban operatives has drawn criticism since the detention and interrogation camp opened in January 2002.

Sixteen Saudi Arabian prisoners were sent home earlier in the week and another 85 of various nationalities have been designated for transfer to their homelands, some for continued detention and some for outright release.

Most were captured during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration has deemed them “enemy combatants” ineligible for prisoner-of-war status that would guarantee certain rights under international law.

About 380 prisoners have been sent home from Guantanamo, including 114 this year, the military said.

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