WASHINGTON – Two prisoners have been transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba to the government of Algeria as part of ongoing efforts to close the controversial prison, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab were approved for transfer following a “comprehensive review” by the Guantanamo Review Task Force, it said in a statement.
The move leaves 164 detainees still inside the Guantanamo Bay site, which President Barack Obama has sought to close.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the statement said. “The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
Hadjarab has been in the facility for at least 11 years, according to documents on the New York Times website, and more than 18,000 people signed an online petition calling for his release.
Sayyab is a suspected member of al Qaeda, according to a 2007 Department of Defense document hosted by Wikileaks. The document also says he is 37 years old and was born in Ain Taya, a suburb of the Algerian capital Algiers.
Obama has long promised to close the prison, most of whose inmates have been held for years without charge, but has faced resistance from Congress.
It comes a week after the State Department warned U.S. citizens against overland travel within Algeria, citing “a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings.”