updated 9/26/2009 8:08:24 PM ET 2009-09-27T00:08:24

With the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison by a January deadline in doubt, the Justice Department Saturday announced the transfer of three detainees to the governments of Yemen and Ireland.

Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a Yemen native, was returned to his homeland. A federal court in May ruled that Ahmed could no longer be detained at the military detention in Cuba facility and ordered him released.

The two other detainees, whose names were not disclosed for security reasons, have been sent to Ireland. In July, the Irish government agreed to accept the two Uzbek prisoners, one of at least four European nations that have said they would take detainees.

The transfers are part of a larger plan pushed by President Barack Obama since his first days in office to close the detention facility in Cuba by Jan. 22. Administration officials now say that they may not be able to meet that deadline, in part because of the difficulty in finding host countries for those who can be released after their cases are reviewed.

Including the transfers announced Saturday, 17 prisoners have been relocated to other countries, a Justice Department spokesman said. But more than 220 detainees are still being held at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. military prison was created by former President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a landing spot for suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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